Washington: Former White House official, Lisa Curtis said that former Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan’s return to power, or not, will not have much impact on the future of Washington-Islamabad relations as such decisions in the South Asian nation are taken by the army chief, not the Prime Minister.
Lisa Curtis, who looked after South and Central Asian affairs at the Trump White House expressed her views at a Monday evening seminar in the US capital, reported Dawn.
“I don’t think the future of US-Pakistan relations hinges on who will be the PM in Pakistan… more important is who will be the chief of army staff,” said Curtis.
She added that the army controlled decision-making on issues important to the US, such as the nuclear program, Pakistan’s relations with India, and counter-terrorism, reported Dawn.
However, Curtis said this kind of hybrid democracy would not be good for Pakistan as it’s “an inherently unstable form of government,” regarding the Pak army’s control over the politics of Pakistan.
When asked how Khan’s return to power could influence US-Pakistan relations, she said, “Even though Imran Khan very unhelpfully used the US as a scapegoat when he lost power, were he to be re-elected, there will be a certain amount of pragmatism that might become part of the equation.”
She believed there would be “an effort to make amends with Washington,” reported Dawn.
Douglas London, a former CIA operative and analyst; Javid Ahmad, a former Afghan ambassador to the UAE; and Hussain Haqqani, Pakistan’s former ambassador to Washington also participated in the discussion.
Marvin Weinbaum, director of Pakistan/Afghanistan Studies at the Middle East Institute (MEI), Washington, moderated the session hosted by his institute.
Curtis and Haqqani believed Pakistan and the US were not as close as when America was still in Afghanistan, reported Dawn.
Curtis said the US wanted to ensure Pakistan did not get closer to China and that negative views about Islamabad regarding Afghanistan still prevailed.
Meanwhile, Ahmad observed Pakistan had “all ingredients to self-destruct at any time”.
Haqqani noted the US-Pakistan relationship began as an economic necessity for Islamabad after the Partition, but its leaders paid little attention to the economic aspect. He added “the sustenance of relations must be economic and not military,” reported Dawn.
Curtis also raised the issue of “nuclear safety and the possibility of a failed state,” reported Dawn.
Meanwhile, London warned Pakistan “could go up in flames” any time if elections were not held and some sort of consensus formed.
Haqqani thought the army was still trying to influence political developments, but from behind the scenes.
Curtis commented that the army did not expect massive support for Imran Khan after he was removed and now the political situation would be “an “enormous challenge” for the next army chief, who “must first rebuild consensus” within the institution, reported Dawn.
Haqqani predicted the PTI chief “may win, but not sweep” the next elections as he was not as popular as it seemed.