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Pakistani perspective on US polls by Muhammd Mehdi

International powers had been interfering into foreign states through political maneuvering and military expeditions since time immemorial. The subcontinent is among the first such hunting ground.Maulana Abul Kalam Azad in his autobiography, India Wins Freedom, that reached the public through Humayun Kabeer. Pandit Nehru and other Indian leaders spoke of in the parliament, gives a glimpse of this maneuvering. He writes that because of the circumstances created by the Second World War US was pressing Britain to give India full independence.

He further writes that (US) President Roosevelt’s special emissary brought him a letter in which the President wished that Maulana Azad accepted the recommendations of the Cripps Mission. Just to remind the readers that the US Senate and House of Representatives had discussed and taken a strong position when Congress leaders were being arrested by the British in August 1942.

Maulana Azad has also mentioned his meetings with US army officers in Kolkata without giving details of what transpired between the two sides in these meetings. But, it should not be difficult to judge what topics the Maulana Azad could have discussed with the US military officers.

The purpose of recalling these events is to explain the readers that US influence in the subcontinent existed since pre-independence era and the post-independence period has seen only deterioration in the situation or strengthening of this influence. Therefore, it is only natural for Pakistanis to take interest in the US presidential elections and analyzing its consequences.

For Pakistan, American foreign policy holds importance on three counts. First, what policy Washington will be adopting vis-à-vis internal affairs of the country. Second, what the US priorities will be in respect to Islamabad’s neighbors, and thirdly its steps in Islamic countries that also directly affect Pakistan.

Drone attacks are talk of the town in Pakistan while its parliament has also unanimously passed a resolution against the way the terrorists and innocent people are being hit in the tribal areas. On the other hand, American leaders, President Barack Obama and his opponent Mitt Romney, also unanimous on the efficacy of drones as an effective tool in the war on terror. Therefore, it’ll be futile to expect any change in the US policy even if there comes any political change in the November 6 presidential elections. Islamabad’s wishes will figure insignificantly in the future drone strategy. Rather Romney is known to have more aggressive thoughts with regard to armed groups in Pakistan.

In line with this thinking, Washington is reorganizing Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police. Former Soviet Union had adopted the same policy to keep in power Najeebullah regime back in late 1980s but could not continue the process because of its own weakening economic conditions. US will keep in army in Afghanistan beyond 2014 but will make the Afghan institutions (army and police) to take the front foot role as, on the basis of its economic might, the US still has the capacity to do so. And, unlike in the past, it is impossible for the Afghan Taliban to keep large tracts of Afghanistan under their control.

Pakistan and its neighboring states are figuring prominently in the US presidential polls as Iran’s gradual advancement towards becoming a nuclear power has made Americans worried. Both the major presidential candidates are busy in assuring their voters that they will never allow Tehran to become a nuclear state. Romney is propagating against Obama saying Iran will cross the nuclear red line if Democrats are given another term in power, while Obama is insisting that Iran cannot attain this capacity as far as he is in power. However, both the leaders are keeping aggression against Iran as a possible option, although the last one, for thwarting Tehran’s attempts to join the prestigious nuclear club.

Obama administration is also under criticism for failing to protect US interests during political uprising in Arab states and, resultantly, Russia, Iran and Muslim Brotherhood have established close relations which may lead to an anti-US alliance in future. Russia, since the dissolution of USSR, has recently retested its nuclear missiles.

China extending army training to Fiji islands and construction of hydro-electric dams there is also of significant importance in the backdrop that Obama visited Australia in November the previous year and settled some issues with regards to marines and drones. But Australian minister Mr Carr toured China this May and gave there some vague but meaningful comments regarding US. The comments were specially criticized by London Telegraph. Beijing’s increasing economic power and its advances in military affairs are also an important factor in the ongoing election campaign between Obama and Romney.

Another issue facing the Obama administration is the situation developing in Syria and Libya. It will be interesting to note that later Moammar Qadhaafi had alleged that Al Qaeda was active against him. Former CIA officer Lopez and other prominent personalities from US or outside the US have reiterated the same allegation saying US ambassador and embassy in Libya is in close contact with Al Qaeda and that the contact is the basis of creating fissures in the anti-Bashar al-Asad group—Free Syrian Army—and forming a new grouping, Front of Liberate Syria. The disclosure of US administration’s close contact with Al Qaeda in the prevailing circumstances has not only numbed the ordinary Americans it has also made incomprehensible for the Muslim world the Al Qaeda’s policy vis-à-vis United States. For, conventionally, US first being Al Qaeda operatives into muscle and then kills them in drone hits.
The writer is a political activist based in Lahore.

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