Imran Khan, the former Pakistani prime minister who swept into power in 2018 by tapping into a deep vein of anti-American sentiment, received an outpouring of popular support when he claimed the United States was in on the assassination attempt against him this month, and had a role in his ouster from power in April.

Yet Mr. Khan appeared to switch gears this week when he said he is ready to work with the U.S. and that he envisions “dignified” relations between the countries.

Why We Wrote This

The presence of almost reflexive anti-Americanism in Pakistan is evidence of the broken relationship between the two countries. But soft power and person-to-person diplomacy are seen as ways to build back trust.

Can the countries repair their broken ties? Analysts point to a realpolitik recognition that Pakistan needs stable relations with Washington, and warming feelings toward the U.S. for its assistance following devastating floods this summer.

“Imran Khan’s new statement reflects what he knows to be true, that Pakistan as a state cannot afford not to have relations with the U.S.,” says Rabia Akhtar, director of the Centre for Security, Strategy, and Policy Research at the University of Lahore. “But public trust needs to be restored first, because right now that’s gone,” she adds. “The only way to rebuild that trust is to restart and build back the ties between Pakistanis and Americans – the people-to-people connections – that we’ve lost.”

Just how anti-American is Pakistan?

Judging by the outpouring of domestic political support that former Prime Minister Imran Khan received when he claimed the United States was in on the assassination attempt against him this month, quite a lot.

Go back to 2018, when the Trump-like populist Mr. Khan swept into power by shrewdly tapping into a deep vein of anti-American sentiments over the war on terror, and the antagonism seems confirmed.

Why We Wrote This

The presence of almost reflexive anti-Americanism in Pakistan is evidence of the broken relationship between the two countries. But soft power and person-to-person diplomacy are seen as ways to build back trust.

Top it off with widespread support for Mr. Khan’s further claim that it was U.S.-engineered “regime change” that caused his ouster from power in April of this year.

It would all seem to add up to a deep well of anti-Americanism.

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