US State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland. - Reuters File Photo
US State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland. - Reuters File Photo

WASHINGTON: The United States does not want to return President Zardari to power or block Nawaz Sharif or Imran Khan from winning the forthcoming election, said a senior US official while talking to a group of Pakistani journalists at a recent diplomatic reception.

Other US officials are equally enthusiastic in denying the general perception in Pakistan that the US government wants to influence the electoral process in Pakistan to bring in a friendly government.

As Dawn reported on Saturday, US Secretary of State John Kerry skipped a planned visit to Pakistan this week to avoid accusations of meddling in the May 11 elections.

Hours after Secretary Kerry landed in Kabul on an unannounced visit, a senior US official confirmed that he wanted to visit Islamabad as well but did not because Pakistan “enters a very historic period on this electoral process and we wanted to fully respect those institutions and the on-going process.”

US officials, while talking off the record, say that they are aware of “the conspiracy theories circulating in Pakistan” and regret that the Pakistani media “do little to dispel such baseless theories.”

At a recent briefing at the State Department, spokesperson Victoria Nuland also regretted that “the Pakistani people don’t have good information” about US policies towards their country and stressed the “need to work harder to get that message out.”

The message the United States wants to send out during the election season is “we have no favourites among Pakistani politicians and we are looking forward to work with whoever is elected on May 11.”

Secretary Kerry’s decision to skip Pakistan during his South Asia visit is not the only indication of Washington’s eagerness to maintain neutrality during the elections.

In her latest briefing on the Pakistani elections, Ms Nuland pointed out that although under the Kerry-Lugar arrangement, the US has set aside about $6.5 million for helping the electoral process, the fund remains unused because Washington awaits a request from Islamabad.

In private conversations, US officials also dispel the Pakistani perception that the US believes Nawaz Sharif or Imran Khan have links to the Taliban and if they are elected, they will bring in the Taliban.

The US officials point out that Nawaz Sharif is a former prime minister. They have worked with him and do not equate him with religious extremists. Therefore, they will have no problem working with him again if he is re-elected.

Similarly, they do not see Imran Khan as a religious extremist either and will also be willing to work with him if he wins the election.

The US administration, the officials say, will also have no problem working with a PPP-led government if it is re-elected.

But as a Washington think-tank – Centre for Strategic and International Studies – pointed out in a recent report, some Pakistani religious parties do alarm US policy makers. Yet, the Americans know that such parties are unlikely to get more than a handful of seats in the election.

They point out that groups like the Difah-e-Pakistan Council can continue to raise noise against Pakistan’s partnership with the US in the war against terrorism but cannot be an effective player in the political arena.

They also note that efforts to revive the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal, which ruled the former Northwest Frontier Province from 2002 through 2007, have failed too.

Maulana Tahirul Qadri has also failed to make much of an impact after the first rally that apparently shook Islamabad.


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Comments (13) Closed




anwar kamal
Mar 26, 2013 09:29am
But that does mean they have no interest.
Asif Kahsmiri
Mar 26, 2013 09:58am
very well said.
observer
Mar 26, 2013 10:18am
Why not support Pervez Musharraf's party?
aziz
Mar 26, 2013 10:54am
Unbelievable!
Devi
Mar 26, 2013 11:22am
The US has no favourites? Don't worry about it, neither do we.
G.A.
Mar 26, 2013 12:07pm
If incompetence across the board is all that's needed to keep the Yanks out of meddling then so be it.
Ihtisham
Mar 26, 2013 01:07pm
john kerry didn't visit pakistan,but he did meet Gen.Kiyani in Jordan a day earlier,as Dawn reported. how now???? What i want is to point out that by just not visiting pakistan at this moment does not mean that the U.S would not influence the forthcoming elections here.
Hamza
Mar 26, 2013 01:25pm
Zardari is their favourite or even Nawaz but not Imran!
TKhan
Mar 26, 2013 02:09pm
Everything US gives is Interest free, but heavy penalty for early withdrawal. "Are you with us or against us" IOU is still out there.
danial
Mar 26, 2013 03:19pm
Why can't they stay out of our election process as a whole? Is it neccessary for US to just somehow make statements about our country internal matters?
Fakhr Zaman
Mar 26, 2013 03:47pm
If US is not interested in the forth comming elections in Pakistan then why they are puzzle about the religious parties ?
Syd
Mar 26, 2013 04:06pm
USA has no favorites in Pakistan? Really funny, very funny indeed. Couldn't stop laughing. On the other hand all of the candidates are on US payroll one way or the other so why have a favorite since all of them work for you anyways:)
G.A.
Mar 26, 2013 10:35pm
The heading says that US has no favorites in the 'political' arena. That does not mean it doesnt have favorites in the 'General' arena if you know what I mean.