News / Asia

US Watching Regional Impact of Upcoming Pakistan Vote

Pakistan's former prime minister Nawaz Sharif (C) submits his nomination papers for the upcoming by-elections in Lahore May 13, 2008. Pakistani prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani called for a last-ditch effort to save his government on Tuesday, after refus
Pakistan's former prime minister Nawaz Sharif (C) submits his nomination papers for the upcoming by-elections in Lahore May 13, 2008. Pakistani prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani called for a last-ditch effort to save his government on Tuesday, after refus
Voters in Pakistan go to the polls next month for what is expected to be the country's first civilian-to-civilian transfer of power.

Pakistan's May election comes at a tumultuous time in the region, with Islamabad and Kabul both pushing for talks with the Taliban ahead of Afghan voting next year.

Ryan Crocker is a former U.S. ambassador to Pakistan and to Afghanistan.

"A stable Pakistan is crucial to a stable region. And that takes us back to the importance of these elections," he said.

With a credible electoral commission in place, he says, the vote comes down to institutions.

"Pakistan is in a state of institutional failure," said Crocker. "It's not a failed state, but you could argue it is a failing state. So these elections need to be well-run and credible in their outcome."

Pakistan's military has largely stayed out of this vote. U.S. Council on Foreign Relations fellow Daniel Markey says he believes the military has a lower political profile as it watches how the United States and Afghanistan engage the Taliban.

"They are very eager to figure out what the Americans are actually doing," said Markey. "They don't trust that the U.S. officials are necessarily letting them in on the reconciliation process. And they don't trust the Afghans or even the Afghan Taliban to tell them either. So their major concern is to be looped into the process."

Also part of the equation is Pakistan's natural gas pipeline with Iran, over which the United States is threatening to sanction Islamabad because of concerns about Iran's nuclear program.

But American University professor Akbar Ahmed says Pakistan's energy demands outweigh U.S. opposition.

"It's in the interests of the Pakistani government to have access to energy, and Iran is promising that through this gas pipeline. At the same time, the United States is doing everything to block this," said Ahmed.

Ahmed says Tehran is hoping that U.S.-led sanctions force Pakistan into a closer alliance with Iran.

"I don't think the United States should be pushing Pakistan to the point that it's at the brink," he said. "It's already at the brink in terms of the law-and-order breakdown in Pakistan, in terms of the economic crisis, in terms of really the sense of crisis that now envelopes Pakistan and the awareness in Pakistan that America is at the root cause of most of its problems."

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry wanted to go to Islamabad following his surprise trip to Kabul last week, but decided against it. A senior State Department official says they "did not want to lead anyone to conclude anything about where" U.S. interests may lie.

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Comment Sorting
by: Ajay from: Toronto
April 01, 2013 7:17 PM
It follows that once Americans leave Afghanistan in the coming 1-2 years, Pakistan shall lose its strategic importance in terms of a U.S. military base, to fight terrorism in the South Asian continent. The intelligence and high dollar espionage center set up post 9/11 to catch Osama and his ilk shall be dismantled, and ISI will be partially and greatly unemployed. But then the greatest failure will be inability of the civilian Pakistani government, no matter whoever is in power, to contain Talibani and Al-Qaeda insurgents in SWAT and Balochi-pockets.

The greatest fear is if they (the terrorist who are 'lavisly served' with increasing and expensive drone attacks) spread like cancer (which they most likely will because the elements have existed at least since Soviet-era Cold war, and were trained ironically by the same masters for a reason, who now want to destroy them for a different reason altogether, and combined with their pseudo- religious zealotry are unlikely to back out), this may spell doom for the relatively peaceful South Asian continent. What Pakistan really needs is the healing of wounds, however old or new they may be, and not just simply covering them or flossing them up with short term patches.

And I don't see some kind of a Marshall-plan package coming from the West for Pakistan in the near future - this would have been a long-term and effective containment strategy. If Pakistan ends up as a waste-land for its own people then that's a pity because it is a beautiful country to live in, and the people are no less beautiful - in that at least, a fair proportion at least do believe in democracy, if not entirely. Upcoming elections is mere patchwork, but that if they can stop hating their innocent neighbor, India for an old late 40s enmity and its spinoff, then that would be a leap ahead for the establishment in progress! Loving your neighbor brings a lot to the peace of the region, and that applies to all neighbors within the region.
In Response

by: a from: usa
April 04, 2013 11:18 AM
You should read this ny times article:
In Response

by: SLDUA from: Noida (India)
April 02, 2013 9:53 AM
If wishes were horses ...........................
Most of the Pakistanis are indoctrinated religious zealots, this can be gauged from what they are doing to religious minorities and to those Muslims who don't subscribe to their ways. This is the result of decades of indoctrination in schools and colleges. Nothing can wean them away from Jihad. There are a few persons who want pluralistic democracy to take roots but they already seem to have conceded defeat to Jihadi zealots.

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