Former Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan’s return to power, or not, will not have much impact on the future of Washington-Islamabad relations as such decisions in the South Asian nation are taken by the army chief, not the Prime Minister.
This view was expressed at a Monday evening seminar in the US capital, Dawn news reported.
“I don’t think the future of US-Pakistan relations hinges on who will be the PM in Pakistan… more important is who will be the chief of army staff,” said Lisa Curtis, who looked after South and Central Asian affairs at the Trump White House, adding it was the army that controlled decision-making on issues important to the US, such as the nuclear programme, Pakistan’s relations with India, and counter-terrorism.
But Curtis also said this kind of hybrid democracy would not be good for Pakistan as it’s “an inherently unstable form of government”.
Douglas London, a former CIA operative and analyst; Javid Ahmad, a former Afghan ambassador to the UAE; and Hussain Haqqani, Pakistan’s former ambassador to Washington also participated in the discussion. Marvin Weinbaum, director of Pakistan/Afghanistan Studies at the Middle East Institute (MEI), Washington, moderated the session hosted by his institute, Dawn news reported.
Both Curtis and Haqqani believed Pakistan and the US were not as close as when America was still in Afghanistan.
Curtis said the US wanted to ensure Pakistan did not get closer to China and that negative views about Islamabad regarding Afghanistan still prevailed.
The US, she added, “wants Pakistan to support it in Ukraine”.
London noted that tensions between the two countries had reduced since the US withdrew from Afghanistan, and Washington didn’t want to lose Islamabad completely as it was a nuclear state.
Now, he remarked, there was “more openness” between the intelligence and military services of the two countries, but “little substance”.
Ahmad observed Pakistan had “all ingredients to self-destruct at any time”, Dawn reported.
Haqqani noted the US-Pakistan relationship began as an economic necessity for Islamabad after the Partition, but its leaders paid little attention to the economic aspect.
He added “the sustenance of relations must be economic and not military”.
Curtis said America’s main concerns for Pakistan were “nuclear safety and possibility of a failed state”.
Ahmad said the US had become a party in Pakistan’s current political infighting because of Khan’s allegations, while London warned Pakistan “could go up in flames” any time if elections were not held and some sort of consensus formed, Dawn reported.
Haqqani thought the army was still trying to influence political developments, but from behind the scenes.
Curtis commented that the army did not expect the massive support for Khan after he was removed and now the political situation would be “an “enormous challenge” for the next army chief, who “must first rebuild consensus” within the institution.