Challenges ahead for US policy

The re-election of US President Barack Obama for a second term to the White House has set in motion a number of challenges for Washington’s relations with Pakistan.

During the next four years, President Obama will oversee the historic end to an equally historic conflict in Afghanistan, from where thousands of US-led Western troops and $60 billion worth of military hardware are due to be withdrawn by 2014. Clearly, the plan has significant implications for Pakistan.
The exercise will not just be a potential nightmare in logistical terms. It may be equally complex politically too. One dimension of what lies ahead will be the shade of Pakistan’s own emerging politics, as the country goes through its next political transition with parliamentary elections that must be held no later than mid-2013. What comes out of this exercise may at least set the pace for the tenor of Islamabad’s future ties with the US, if not the overall character of this relationship.
While the US has historically dealt with military regimes in Pakistan, including some of the most brutal ones, it is now firmly behind a continuation of a democratic ruling structure. In the past four years since Pakistan’s President Asif Zardari was elected and subsequently oversaw the installation of an elected regime led by his PPP, the US has squarely backed the parliamentary democratic structure.
In principle, supporting democracy is, indeed, the best choice that the US or any other interested party could have ever adopted in support of Pakistan. Yet, questions remain widespread over the character of Pakistan’s democracy where obvious gaps have often been ignored.
In the past four years, a series of corruption-related scandals and a consistently failing quality of governance have together undermined Pakistan at an unprecedented pace. Until recently, the obsession of the PPP to resist calls from a number of sides to investigate allegations of corruption against him in Switzerland, kicked in a sense of paralysis around the country. While the government resisted these calls in the face of overwhelming moral and political arguments, Pakistan suffered.
This experience is just one of the many that easily define the character of a regime, which is determined to fulfil its own narrow partisan interests, overseen by the interests of particular individuals, rather than Pakistan’s best national interests. Clearly, a US partnership with such a regime, that also remains unpopular on the streets of Pakistan, will only throw up futile outcomes for promoting Washington’s best interests.
While the broad unpopularity of Pakistan’s ruling structure is apparent across the country’s mainstream, some in the ruling structure are still convinced of the PPP’s return to power, following the next elections. For the moment, it is virtually impossible to draw this conclusion.
Still, if indeed there is such an unexpected outcome for the future, there are profound challenges that cannot be ignored. For the US, one key challenge will be the extent to which blatantly anti-US political groups, such as PTI, take charge of parts of the country. Anecdotal evidence clearly suggests that the PTI has made deep political inroads across the northern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa or KP province, from where it may command a majority after the next parliamentary elections. With or without the PPP taking charge of Pakistan’s federal government, if the PTI takes charge of KP, it is possible that the party will take a tough stand on relations with the US. At the very extreme, a PTI-led administration could order a blockage of a land supply route for trucks flowing to and from Afghanistan via a crucial route running through the province. Faced with such an outcome, an already tainted PPP-led ruling structure in Islamabad will just not be able to rise up to Washington’s expectations.
Going forward, the US will not just face controversial choices directly in relation to its policies, notably on issues like the future of continuing its programme of using pilot-less drones to target suspected militant sanctuaries inside Pakistan’s border. The other dimension of Washington’s challenge clearly relates to trends within Pakistan where a visibly unpopular regime and an increasingly dysfunctional economy are as much of a liability for the future of US policies as they are for the future of Pakistan.
The writer is a political and economic analyst. This article has been reproduced from  the Gulf News.


Leave A Comment:

Powered by Blogger.
Design by