According to a Time Magazine article published on Monday, the United States appears to view Nawaz Sharif as a ‘safe’ and ‘predictable’ option as Pakistan approaches general elections. The article titled ‘Pakistan’s Elections Are Being Brazenly Rigged. Why Doesn’t the US Seem to Care?’ suggests that the US approach to the election is influenced by both personality and structural factors.
The article highlights how a State Department spokesperson downplayed concerns about the treatment of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party in the lead-up to the elections, stating that they had not seen such reports. While the US claims to champion democracy as the “defining challenge of our time,” it has not taken a strong stance on the elections and seems reserved about the direction they are taking.
The piece suggests that US engagement in Pakistan primarily revolves around the desire for the South Asian nation to combat terrorism and stabilize relations with India. However, the article notes that the US holds a more favorable view of Nawaz Sharif, seeing him as a safe and predictable figure who is unlikely to disrupt relations with India in the short term.
The article quotes politics professor Tariq Amin-Khan, who suggests that the State Department is comfortable with Nawaz Sharif. Despite this perspective, the Time article raises concerns that the US may regret not taking a stronger stance on the elections if they are later perceived as a ‘sham.’
The piece also highlights the potential consequences of a government lacking popular support, especially amid a deteriorating economy, warning of possible social unrest. Professor Anita Weiss of the University of Oregon expresses concern that if the election is deemed a sham, it could lead to widespread riots in Pakistan, already grappling with a severe economic crisis.
Regardless of the election outcome, the article suggests that the US is likely to continue treating the army as the center of power, as indicated by General Asim Munir’s visit last year.