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Islamabad

November 11, 2016

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Two experts opine on US elections impact on Pakistan

Two experts opine on US elections impact on Pakistan

Islamabad

Chairman Senate Defence Committee Senator Mushahid Hussain Sayed and Pakistan’s former ambassador to the United States, Hussain Haqqani have distinct and varied views on Pakistan’s foreign policy towards America. But their views converge on a single and most important point as America chooses between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump -- interests will govern US foreign policy towards Pakistan, whoever wins race for White House.

Both, Mushahid and Haqqani, have attained specialisation in foreign policy through hard work during the last 20-25 years. Mushahid was a lecturer, newspaper editor turned political activist, media strategist of PML-N in 1993. He remained a PML-N central minister, later on joined the PML-Q and Musharraf bandwagon to become minister, secretary general of the PML-Q, a place he still occupies, but has a soft leaning towards the ruling PML-N.

Haqqani is a journalist turned media strategist. He was with PML when Islami Jamhoori Ittehad (IJI) was formed to take on PPP’s in 1988. Later, he became ambassador, but joined hands with PPP during late Benazir Bhutto’s self exile. He was made ambassador during Zardari presidency, a job he had to relinquish after Memogate scandal erupted. He is these days director of South and Central Asia, Hudson Institute.

“In my opinion US relations with Pakistan will not be dramatically affected by either candidate winning the US presidency. Hillary Clinton will perhaps be more diplomatic and Trump less so but US policy will be based on issues, not personality,” contends Hussain Haqqani while talking to The News. Mushahid agrees to this extent, but emphasizes that “Pakistan matters to the US on three vital counts, due to 'nazriya zaroorat' (doctrine of necessity or the US need for Pakistan): 1) Pakistan is a pivotal player in the most important strategic region affecting US interests (China, Iran, India, Central Asia, Afghanistan and with Russia too, nearby), and this region has the two biggest American embassies in the world (Kabul & Islamabad), plus the largest American military presence in the Muslim World (8,500 American troops, big bases plus over 20,000 US citizens working as 'contractors' for the US government in neighbouring Afghanistan).

2) the biggest challenge for American foreign policy is Washington's frayed, faulty and failed relations with the Muslim world, with the unraveling of the Middle East, with issues of terrorism and extremism, and unresolved root causes of regional instability like Kashmir and Palestine, and Pakistan is a key country in the Muslim world, as part of the solution to problems, particularly Afghanistan.

3) Pakistan is amongst the 9 world's nuclear states, the only Muslim country, the principal ally of China which is viewed by Washington as its biggest competitor, if not rival, in Asia, where a new Cold War is developing with the US trying to cobble a coalition of countries, led by India, to contain China.

Asked who will be beneficial for Pakistan, Hillary or Trump, Haqqani says: “Looking at the views of the individual candidates, Hillary Clinton has tremendous experience on Pakistan and working with Pakistani leaders. As secretary of state Hillary Clinton repeatedly encouraged Pakistan’s leaders to change their policy towards India, the region and the use of jihad.” In an oft-quoted remark, he adds, from October 2011 she said while referring to Pakistan’s use of jihadis as proxies in India and Afghanistan: “You can’t keep snakes in your backyard and expect them only to bite your neighbours.” At a fundraiser in February 2016 she expressed concern about the possibility of a coup by jihadis in Pakistan that could lead to their taking control of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons. Thus a Clinton presidency unlike the Obama administration is unlikely to offer any aid package deal to Pakistan and instead may increase the pressure on Islamabad-Rawalpindi to do more, Haqqani argues.

Donald Trump when asked during a primary debate in March 2016 about how he would resolve the issue of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons replied that “India's the check to Pakistan." Trump does not have that experience but he has a team of advisers some of whom have said that Pakistan should be declared a state sponsor of terrorism. This is not the first time that the United States is moving towards declaring Pakistan a state sponsor of terrorism.

In 1992, when Nawaz Sharif was premier for the first time, Washington sent a message that unless Pakistan changed its policies it would be declared a state sponsor. We were able to avert it in 1992 but unless we change our policies we may not be so lucky next time round, Haqqani opined.

The former Pakistani ambassador said relations with the United States changed after 9/11 and especially after May 2011 with the Abbottabad raid. “Pakistan now lacks the goodwill within US administration and policy circles that it had during and immediately after the Cold War. Our inability and unwillingness to change our policies despite repeated American requests and demands has led to the current situation.”

“The war in Afghanistan, the loss of American lives at the hands of terrorists trained in Pakistan and Pakistan’s ambiguous policy towards terrorism has resulted in this rapid deterioration of relations. The world’s most wanted terrorist, Osama bin Laden, was found inside Pakistan and the head of Lashkar-e-Taiba, Hafiz Saeed roams freely inside Pakistan does not bode well for our international image.”

Public opinion about Pakistan has also had an impact on policy. According to a Pew poll only 10% of Americans trust Pakistan and only 22% of Pakistanis have a favourable view of the United States,” Haqqani opined.

Asked about the steps Pakistan should take before the new administration in the US takes reins of power, the former Pakistani ambassador said: “Pakistan needs to demonstrate to the world that it is serious about wiping about terrorism from within Pakistani territory. Our neighbours and the global community need to be satisfied on this score. This is a long term objective but in the short term there are steps Pakistan could take starting with arresting and convicting terrorist leaders like Hafiz Saeed, Masood Azhar and others to demonstrate our conviction. We also need to act against Afghan Taliban and the Siraj Haqqani network who kill Americans in Afghanistan.”

 

 

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