Will Obama's reelection change the US-Pakistan relationship?

Some Pakistani officials are quietly hoping Obama's reelection will help relations between the two countries, particularly if Sen. John Kerry replaces Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State.

Akram Shahid/Reuters
A supporter of the religious political party Sunni Tehreek covers an image of US President Barack Obama, attached to an effigy, during an anti-American rally in Hyderabad, Pakistan, in this September 2011 file photo.

As news of President Obama's victory reaches Pakistan, many say they do not expect any substantial change in US foreign policy toward the country.

But some Pakistani officials and politicians are quietly hoping that perhaps a cabinet reshuffle and a strengthened mandate, now that reelection pressures are eased, could soften an otherwise tense relationship between the two countries.

And rumors that Sen. John Kerry (D) from Massachusetts could replace Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has some officials hoping that the former's many-year relationship with Pakistan could pave the way for an even smoother cooperation.

“It is of course up to the US president to appoint the Secretary of State. However, if speculations about Kerry become true, then that would be a positive development – and a lot easier. Kerry has many friends in Pakistan. He obviously knows the region, and the ins and outs of our relationship,” says Fawad Chaudhury, a special assistant to Pakistan's prime minister.

Kerry was one of the US senators who sponsored the $1.5 billion annual Kerry-Lugar-Berman aid package to Pakistan, and is known for his relationship with the country. He paid visits to Afghanistan and Pakistan following the Navy Seal raid that killed Osama bin Laden, in an effort to save the rocky partnership.

Some within the security establishment agree. “I think he is more soft and understanding toward Pakistan. There may be a better relationship between the two as a result,” says a security official who preferred to remain unnamed.

The official also predicts that Obama's reelection could have given him a strengthened mandate to pursue the foreign policy line – and vision – that he laid out during his first presidential campaign.

“This time he might be more bold, and have more space to make his own decisions. In the first term, the CIA and Pentagon were calling the shots. Now Obama is less worried about reelection, and can ensure that the State Department sets the line,” says the official.

In an interview before the election, cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan said he tentatively agreed that an Obama win would benefit Pakistan. “Obama's instincts are basically right. Let's hope if he wins the second term, we see a different Obama,” he said.

Even Pakistan's right-wing Islamist political party Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) appears hopeful. “Less pressure on Obama could create some space for small changes in their policy. Perhaps Obama could move closer toward the message he gave the Muslim world in his Cairo speech. But time will tell,” says Fareed Ahmed Paracha, JI's deputy secretary general. 

But Dr. Paracha also echoed the broader apparent disinterest of the Pakistani public in Obama's victory. “The bottom line is that we need to get our own house in order,” he says. "The US, as such, does not matter."

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.

QR Code to Will Obama's reelection change the US-Pakistan relationship?
Read this article in
https://www.csmonitor.com/World/Asia-South-Central/2012/1107/Will-Obama-s-reelection-change-the-US-Pakistan-relationship
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today
https://www.csmonitor.com/subscribe