Decoding the Ever-evolving Relationship of US and Pakistan

Friends today, foes tomorrow?

Touqir Hussain writes at Dawn: Soon after the results started pouring in following the Feb 8 general elections in Pakistan, several members of the US Congress, as well as the US State Department, expressed concern over alleged interference in the polls, with the former even calling on President Joe Biden not to recognise the incoming government until a transparent investigation into the allegations.

During a press briefing, White House spokesperson John Kirby emphasised the US administration’s vigilant observation of the Feb 8 elections in Pakistan, making his apprehensions about “intimidation and voter suppression” clear. While it may appear that they are expressing valid concern, why is the US so deeply invested in the elections in Pakistan? And does this actually mean anything, particularly when the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has brushed off the US statements by saying that the elections are an “internal sovereign affair”. The answer to these questions lies in the history of the US-Pak relations. To put it simply, the US and Pakistan have been through the entire spectrum of relationship stages — from moments of cooperation to periods swinging between indifference and outright hostility. This relationship has become entangled in domestic politics as much as it has in foreign policy. As a result, it has brought out the best and the worst in the systems of both countries alike…

Bottom line

Criticising the US necessitates a parallel scrutiny of its Pakistani counterparts, notably figures like Zia and Musharraf. It’s imperative to acknowledge that Washington did not take anything from Pakistan that the latter did not give of its own accord. While Pakistani leaders may have failed to serve the people over the years, they have fought battles to culminate a system that protects their interests. The idea of ‘Pakistan’ under their rule, is a product owned and operated by them, not beholden to foreign influences.

While maintaining ties with the US is crucial, there is a need to readjust the terms of engagement that is contingent upon efforts from both Pakistan and the US. Islamabad needs to recognise that a weak and dependent Pakistan undermines its negotiating position. Simultaneously, Washington must grasp that the people of Pakistan should be able to feel the benefits of the relationship for it to garner sustained public support in the country. Ultimately, both parties must realise that the traditional model wherein the leaders reap benefits at the expense of the population is no longer tenable.

Read the whole article here.

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