WASHINGTON: As Pakistan forms a new government, the United States looks for opportunities to work with it to advance the goals of security and stability in South Asia, the State Department said on Thursday.
In a statement on Wednesday’s election that gave Imran Khan and his party a clear edge over others, a spokesman for the State Department also expressed concern over some developments.
“As Pakistan’s elected leaders form a new government, the United States will look for opportunities to work with them to advance our goals of security, stability, and prosperity in South Asia,” the spokesperson said.
“We are concerned by reports of constraints placed on freedoms of expression, association, and the press leading up to the elections.”
Asked to comment on the election results, the spokesperson said: “We are awaiting official results from the Electoral Commission of Pakistan and observer missions to release their preliminary findings.”
Meanwhile, The Financial Times in a report observed that election in Pakistan produced a rare victory for a candidate who comes from outside the country’s two major dynasties, the Sharifs and the Bhuttos.
Other media outlets also noted this change in the stories published or broadcast in the United States since Wednesday evening, when election results from Pakistan showed Imran Khan and his party emerging as a clear winner.
The FT article pointed out that Imran Khan projected himself on the campaign trail as a fighter against corruption, willing to take on the country’s established political elite. “But his opponents say he has been supported and funded by the armed forces,” the report added.
The Bloomberg financial wire reported that Imran Khan’s win would clear the way for Pakistan to “open negotiations with the International Monetary Fund over another, much-needed bailout”.
The reported noted that investors in Pakistan were “already expressing relief at the prospect of an outright win after expectations of a hung parliament”.
The report warned that the PTI leader’s alleged link to Pakistan’s Islamists would be viewed with concern in world capitals and pointed out that in one of his past statements he threatened to shoot down US drones if they entered the Pakistani territory in his government.
Mr Khan maintains that “America’s presence (in Afghanistan) puts him in direct conflict with US President Donald Trump”, the report added.
Bloomberg also noted that Mr Khan, who won power as an anti- corruption crusader, has emphasised the need for more transparency in the $60 billion CPEC projects.
“For now, he may choose to focus on Pakistan’s economy rather than battle the country’s powerful generals over foreign policy and national security issues,” Bloomberg observed.
An agency report published on some news sites noted that religious extremists and banned groups failed miserably in Pakistan’s elections.
Although the extremists had fielded hundreds of candidates, only one appeared to be winning a provincial assembly seat from Karachi, it added.
A Washington Post article noted that PML-N had rejected the results, claiming the election was rigged and other major political parties were also backing this claim.
Although the rigging allegation had cast a shadow on the legitimacy of the entire electoral exercise, it would not prevent the PTI from forming the next government, the report added.
“The PTI-led government would take office, and the opposition parties would concurrently maintain a strong protest movement to pressure the new government for the foreseeable future,” the Post added.
The report noted that if rigging allegations led to a protest movement, the political parties led by the PML-N, could boycott the newly elected parliament and demand a repeat election.
“But such a call would require deep coordination between all major political parties … (and) with the PPP in a strong position to easily form one provincial government, there is no obvious reason to believe they would collaborate.”
The Foreign Policy magazine also carried a report on its website, noting that Pakistan’s foreign relations “are the most frayed they have been in decades” as Imran Khan prepares to take over.
The report noted while the United States and Afghanistan accused Pakistan of allowing Taliban militants to operate out of sanctuaries in Pakistan, the dispute with India over Kashmir was growing tense.
“Pakistan has once more been placed on a terrorism-financing watch list by the Paris-based Financial Action Task Force, rendering it ever more internationally isolated,” it added.
The report stressed the need for dealing with the growing anti-Americanism in Pakistan if Mr Khan wanted to improve his country’s ties with Washington.
The report also noted that before his election, Mr Khan presented himself “as a leader of conscience who would better safeguard Pakistani honour by engaging with the United States on more equal terms”.
But “once Khan is finally and safely in power …, he may no longer need to surf Pakistan’s permanent wave of popular anti-American sentiment with such dedication”, the report added.
Published in Dawn, July 27th, 2018