Today Pakistan held its election for parliament and the votes have come in to project the new prime minister. For the first time in the countries history it has experienced a democratic transition from an democratically elected government five years ago to another democratically elected one. Today there were a spread of attacks through out the region to attempt and deter the people of Pakistan from making their ways to the voting booths. Sixty percent of Pakistanis went and voted for who they believed in would shift their country in a better direction.
This election as many that have taken place in the past couple of years or are on schedule to take place in the future all share the same common problems that plague all forms of government. The economy in Pakistan is not treading water as some European countries are however, their unemployment rate has risen to 6.5% for the fourth quarter of 2012. They are also facing a question that deals with the future policy between the Pakistani Government and the United States.
The reason why this election plays a role for foreign policy is because the man who is projected to win is Nawaz Sharif. Mr. Sharif is part of the Pakistan Muslim League N and was exiled from the country after the military charged him with corruption and hijacking. Now Mr. Sharif’s economic plan is more in the lines as the United States. Mr. Sharif stated the following in a Reuters article “You see privatisation, free market economy, deregulation – have been hallmarks of our party in government. We are going to pick up the threads from where we left off.” However, the one thing that makes me nervous and may make the Obama administration a bit frustrated is Mr. Sharifs stance on the operations conducted by the United States with their drone program.
The United States has lost creditability amongst the Pakistani people. A Gallup poll conducted in February displays the up and down trend of Pakistani sentiment towards the United States. The article also states the following statement that indicates how we as a nation are losing face amongst the country “With President Barack Obama’s first term characterized by strained relations between Pakistan and the U.S., more than nine in 10 Pakistanis (92%) disapprove of U.S. leadership and 4% approve, the lowest approval rating Pakistanis have ever given.” Mr. Sharif has indicated that he will work towards ending the joint drone program insid of Pakistan.
The second runner for the prime minister Imran Kahan has sounded on the very same tune. Both mean who share different ideologies share a common mission. To attempt to lessen American influence in the region and the country. It may just be a thought since the military in Pakistan holds majority of the say when it comes to Foreign Policy. However, if the majority of Pakistani people believe that the United States has placed its footing with in their country too far then does this mean that our policy may need to change.
If two of the men who were on the ballots today preach less U.S involvement and even the closing of the N.A.T.O supply route to Afghanistan won’t the voices of the people be heard? The drone program that the United States has run on the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan has made relations with the country a bit fragile. I do believe that the drone program serves a useful purpose from an intelligence gathering matter however, when you arm these drones and use them in populated areas with civilians you are breeding the potential for terrorist propaganda.
With the Pakistani military in control of the foreign policy that is followed by the government the voice of the people may have the military rethink their postion. However, it can all be rhetoric to win their seat as prime minister. However, with a rise in drone attacks and civilian casualties it may be rhetoric that may prove to be a thorn in the side of the United States. But I believe that the aid that we provide Pakistan may be suffice enough to maintain our military influence in the country. These men speak change and time will now become the bearers of their visions of change.
I will close by saying that I applaud the people of Pakistan. With the multiple attacks through out the country that took place during the elections the civilian population of the country stood in defiance of the Taliban who orchestrated these attacks and voted. Maybe we should allow the government to handle their own affairs. The people of Pakistan do not support terrorism however, if continue with drone attacks that kill innocent people then we are becoming the reason behind the creation of Taliban militants. People will seek revenge for whatever reason they choose but once a family member is killed by a missile from the sky by a foreign country ones attitude of that country does not stay positive.
Even-though I say this, I understand that it is difficult to trust a government who missed that Osama bin Laden was in Islamabad, a military city in Pakistan. Aid provided to the country has not illustrated results of counter terrorism efforts we classify for the aid. Another tough issue in this chess game is the nuclear arsenal that the country possess which also creates some worries. A stable government must be in the cards for the Obama administration in Pakistan. Lets observe the future of Pakistan and U.S relations.