Expert analysis: Who does Pakistan want in the White House?

Published: October 24, 2012

Analysts predict little is going to change for Pakistan if Obama is re-elected. PHOTO: REUTERS

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After the conclusion of the third and final US Presidential debate on Monday October 22, 2012, all eyes and opinion are focused on who the next man in the White House will be. The question also holds a special significance for Pakistan.

Being America’s front line state in the War on Terror in Afghanistan, the controversial debate on drones, the amount of US aid injected into various institutions in Pakistan and the changing political climate in the Muslim world have shaped a very intimate relationship between the two countries. Therefore, which candidate and which party holds the reins in the White House for the next four years is exponentially significant for Pakistanis.

A PEW survey in June 2012 showed that currently 7% of Pakistanis favour Obama, which is even lower than the popularity of President Bush in the last year of his term. Additionally, a new poll conducted by the BBC World Service has found that Pakistan is the only overseas country of those polled that said they would prefer to see Republican US Presidential candidate Mitt Romney win the November elections.

‘Obama a sophisticated Bush’

According to veteran journalist Talat Hussain, the drop in Obama’s approval ratings in Pakistan is a stark contrast from the beginning of his presidential term where most Pakistanis championed the “Obama” factor.

“He was known to be an antithesis of George W Bush and his un-thinking policies. But as he went through his years in the White House, we discovered that he was basically a more sophisticated version of Bush,” says Hussain.

“Over the past few years Pakistan has been branded as a sanctuary for terrorists by a majority of American media organisations and public opinion about the country has deteriorated massively in the US. Therefore, the Democrats showing any kind of flexibility on the Af-Pak region, especially during election year would have gone against their ratings,” says Raza Rumi, a senior columnist.

Obama re-election equals no change

Analysts predict little is going to change for Pakistan if Obama is re-elected.

“Obama has already invested a lot of political capital in the region in terms of the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, the war on al-Qaeda and the drone attacks. If Obama is re-elected, Pakistan should not expect any major policy change,” says Fahd Hussain, a senior TV anchor and journalist.

“The next four years will just be a continuation of the same policies, but in a more sophisticated manner, says Hussain.

Experts wary of Romney

On the other hand, there is a consensus amongst experts that the policy implications for Pakistan under Romney’s presidential term would be worse than four more years with Obama.

According to Asim Sajjad, a columnist and academic, a Romney win “…means going back to a lot jingoism and war-mongering of the Bush years. Because the fight against terrorism is the future of American expansionism.”

“However, if given a choice between the two candidates, the better and less reactionary choice for Pakistan would be Obama,” he said.

Hussain also shares the same opinion.

“Obama is a problem that Pakistan knows but what kind of Republican will dominate the Pakistan, that’s a problem that Pakistan does not know. Therefore, the potential of engaging with Pakistan is much more than engaging with an unknown character at the White House,” he said.

The way forward

Regardless of the next President in the White House, the road to repairing the damaged relationship between the two countries is long and complicated.

Some experts like Sajjad believe that American imperialism will continue its mandate of spreading capitalism across the globe, using different mediums of market exploitation under different administrations.

However, others such as Rumi believe that Pakistan needs to adopt a more inward-looking approach if it wants to improve its bargaining power with the US, and the world at large.

He insists that America should be held responsible for its brute use of power in Iraq and Afghanistan but at the same time, Pakistan also needs to pick a clear side.

“Wanting to be America’s front line state, expect military and civilian aid, demand visas and scholarships for students and simultaneously create a bogey of US enemy on the other hand is a path that has not worked well for the country,” emphasizes Rumi.

“It is time to make some tough choices. Pakistan can either decide to be independent, free itself of US aid and reduce its engagement with America. Or it can take the alternative route of becoming friends and imbibing global values.”

“We unfortunately are completely split in the middle. Therefore, our understanding of the US policy, our relationship with the US and our expectation of either Romney or somebody else are completely off the mark,” he said.

WITH ADDITIONAL INPUT AND REPORTING BY: RABIA MEHMOOD, WAQAS NAEEM, OBAID ABBASI, FARMAN ALI

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Reader Comments (25)

  • BlackJack
    Oct 24, 2012 - 1:53PM

    It is symptomatic of Pakistan’s preferences in most cases that it can only decide what it does not want; most of the ideas like strategic depth, turning mercenary for America, supporting terrorism in neighboring countries etc is to prevent another country from gaining the upper hand or gaining the benefits of peace rather than any specific long-term foreign policy objectives. This support for Romney also comes from the same line of thinking – don’t like frying pan, ergo jump into fire.

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  • Rana
    Oct 24, 2012 - 2:04PM

    It would be ridiculous to expect anything positive on part of Pakistan from either of them!

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  • It Is (still) Economy Stupid
    Oct 24, 2012 - 2:06PM

    And they said ISI Political cell does not exist. Pakistan or Pakistanis have no power to decide who gets elected on Nov 6th. Brand name Pakistan was mentioned in negative light and soft power was lost. Israel was mentioned in positive light as both pledged to defend her.

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  • Poleturtle
    Oct 24, 2012 - 2:28PM

    The US policy is very simple. ‘Do as US says and live’. Nothing else will work. No new President can change this. Pakistan needs to stop playing double games. Period !!

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  • Satan
    Oct 24, 2012 - 2:28PM

    For Pakistanis it just does not matter who is in the White House in Washington, but who is in the President House on Constitution Avenue..
    I couldn’t care less about USA Presidential Elections when anyone with cash or credit card can buy my government.

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  • Polpot
    Oct 24, 2012 - 2:31PM

    Pakistan wants a naive US President.
    ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
    Who can be brought up on the staple diet of Pakistani denial, duplicity and deceit.

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  • ayesha
    Oct 24, 2012 - 2:36PM

    We just want America to leave us alone..

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  • Parvez
    Oct 24, 2012 - 2:43PM

    We should bother about who we want in our President house and how to achieve that despite what America (Obama & Romney are just names) may want.

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  • Monty
    Oct 24, 2012 - 3:21PM

    Whoever has the most drone strikes

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  • Farhan Feroz
    Oct 24, 2012 - 3:23PM

    Pakistan wants peace.Recommend

  • Usman
    Oct 24, 2012 - 3:23PM

    This is the same nation that had preferred “democracy” over Musharraf!

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  • Ali S
    Oct 24, 2012 - 3:33PM

    Doesn’t really matter who wins as far as foreign policy is concerned. Any American president with a functioning brain would be tough on Pakistan, especially as far as drones are concerned. However, the Republicans do have a history of blowing issues regarding foreign policy out of proportion under the banner of patriotism.

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  • Rex Minor
    Oct 24, 2012 - 4:08PM

    Pakistan Govt shall have the opportunity to issue warrant of arrest against obama when he looses, for undertaking extra judicial killings in Pakistan territory without regard for Pakistan sovereign status as the member of UNO. Whether the Pakistan Govt shall have the guts to do it is a separate matter. Obama is heading for the defeat, for this is the will of American people and is the pay back to Obama for spilling the blood of innocent muslims aroud the world. No one and I say that no one has ever escaped the wrath of the believers who suffered at the hands of the INFIDEL.

    Rex Minor

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  • IceSoul
    Oct 24, 2012 - 4:17PM

    @Ayesha: If you want America to just leave Pakistan alone, how abut you start with telling all Pakistanis living in the US to come back home to the land of the pure. Refuse any future aid from the US and stop all exports to the United States. And yes, stop buying weapons and spare parts from the United States.

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  • Mohammad Ali Siddiqui
    Oct 24, 2012 - 4:49PM

    I have been predicting on the US Elections since Mr. Bill Clinton was contesting his second term of elections and by the grace of Al-Mighty Allah, all of my predictions were true.

    For November 6, 2012, my prediction is Barack Hussein Obama will again win his second term of election to remain in the White House, but with a little margin.

    I extend my advance congratulations to Barack Hussein Obama on winning the second term of election.

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  • Jibran
    Oct 24, 2012 - 5:10PM

    Why not put your own house in order? Why do you need others to tell you that you should not spare the terrorists who are slaughtering your own men, women, and children. It just beats me.

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  • Afzaal Khan
    Oct 24, 2012 - 5:36PM

    Raza Rumi says

    “It is time to make some tough choices. Pakistan can either decide to be independent, free itself of US aid and reduce its engagement with America. Or it can take the alternative route of becoming friends and imbibing global values.”emphasized text

    And that exactly is the issue that people like Raza Rumi can’t understand and masses in Pakistan don’t follow. Being independent of America means not becoming freinds and imbibing global values. Why is that why can’t Pak has independent and still stay as freinds and imbibe global values. BTW what are global values and how good USA have been imbibing them. Ridiculous argument. And if thats the only way to be “civilized” then as Sahir Ludhnayvi saidApp bilawaja kyun pareehsan hoteen hain madam
    log kehte hain to sach he kehte hongain
    mere ehbaab nay tehzeeb na seekhi hogee
    mere mahool main insaan na baste hongain

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  • Truth Detector
    Oct 24, 2012 - 5:59PM

    Who does Pakistan want in the White
    House?

    We should really worry about who do we want in Presidency & PM house near constitution avenue.

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  • Falcon
    Oct 24, 2012 - 6:47PM

    It does not just look as a matter of good will, specially if it was done for a period spanning multiple years. It seems like there was a plan from the beginning to get Bugti out of the way and this was the way to buy out loyalty of people who could have opposed. If Govt. was this considerate, there are many others who needed to be taken care of as well. Furthermore, giving out 300 a month does little to help anyone’s survival anyways.

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  • Cautious
    Oct 24, 2012 - 6:52PM

    Over the past few years Pakistan has
    been branded as a sanctuary for
    terrorists by a majority of American
    media organisations and public opinion
    about the country has deteriorated
    massively in the US

    Rubbish — it’s not just the USA that views Pakistan as a sanctuary for terrorist — and as far as “public opinion” the last International Poll placed Pakistan lower than N Korea. In short – your poor image isn’t confined to the USA.

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  • sid Taji
    Oct 24, 2012 - 7:05PM

    If Obama wins, we can expect more of the same. If Romney is elected, expect more chaos in the middle east. To Pakistanis, he may sound little sympathetic, but I would not bet on this. All the George W. Bush advisers are on Romney’s team. It’s going to take a better leadership in Islamabad, and engage America diplomatically to improve Pakistan’s image, and repair relationships.

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  • Pinto
    Oct 24, 2012 - 7:22PM

    It doesn’t matter who pakis want in the white house.USA policy towards pak will not change.Pak will always remains a weapon testing ground and there’s nothing u can do about itRecommend

  • Bill Maher (SFO)
    Oct 24, 2012 - 7:31PM

    @ayesha
    “We just want America to leave us alone..”

    There is pertinent saying:

    We should leave them alone, may be then they will leave us alone.

    From Mississippi burning.

    More like – We should not rely on them or annoy them and then we can ignore them.
    ..ps

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  • Bill Maher (SFO)
    Oct 24, 2012 - 7:38PM

    @Poleturtle
    “The US policy is very simple. ‘Do as US says and live’ “

    I disagree. The policy is such if you are getting/wanting US aid. If you are on your own, US has no problem with you.
    ..ps

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  • Dr.A.K.Tewari
    Oct 25, 2012 - 12:06AM

    Who so ever may be next in the white house can’t dare to ignore the international opinion regarding the Pakistan . War agaist terrorism has to be won at any cost .

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