How would Pakistan fare under Obama?

May 27, 2008

Senator Barack Obama/Steve MarcusWith Senator Barack Obama looking increasingly confident about winning the Democratic nomination, there have been a new spate of articles on what it would mean for Pakistan if he becomes president.

The most eye-catching, perhaps, was a story in The News  about how President Pervez Musharraf’s family in the United States have been giving donations to Obama’s campaign.  “President Pervez Musharraf’s family members here are supporting and giving donations to a US presidential candidate who strongly opposes the Bush administration policy of supporting and keeping the retired general in the presidency,” it says.

The Daily Times, in an analysis by former Pakistani foreign secretary Najmuddin A Shaikh, says there would be little difference between Obama and the Bush administration on the need to hunt out al Qaeda leaders in Pakistan — if needs be through unilateral U.S. action — and on keeping its nuclear weapons safe. What the writer sees is a difference in tone,  which would be welcomed in Pakistan:

“What one can expect, however, is that Obama will be less averse – as the candidate for change – to recognising that extremism in the Muslim world flows from causes other than religious injunctions, no matter how this may be portrayed by so-called spokesmen for Islam or misguided scholars in the West,” he says. “He certainly will not be talking about crusades nor will he oppose direct talks with adversaries.”

But what strikes me is how this optimism about Obama may be offset by the United States in general taking a harder line against Pakistan, regardless of who wins the presidential elections.  A couple of months ago,  in a blog on Obama’s policies on Pakistan, I wrote about how he supports unilateral strikes on al Qaeda targets in the country.

Pakistan boys in South WaziristanSince then, the background noise in the United States about the need to attack al Qaeda and the Taliban inside Pakistan has increased —  to the point where you wonder whether any difference in style and substance Obama might bring would be drowned out by a hardening shift in public opinion towards taking a more aggressive stance.

One blog I came across, calling itself the Danger Room on, argues that Pakistan is in fact al Qaeda’s best base for planning attacks on the United States and Europe, since unlike more unstable places like Iraq where the United States is free to use force, the group flourishes in countries where there is a reasonable amount of state control.

“Pakistan’s better infrastructure, weak counterterrorism capacity, ambivalent counterterrorism policy, and increasingly prickly sovereignty issues gives al Qaeda a more stable platform to train, shield and export personnel-everything a terrorist group needs to organize an attack against targets in the West, as a string of plots now seem to show,” it says.

There are arguments against this — the most obvious being that al Qaeda developed first of all in the chaos of Afghanistan — but it’s worth reading to see where the tide of public opinion might be headed.


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The writer of this blog, Myra McDonald was no doubt in a dangerously ‘high’ state with high-dose consumption of heroine, marijuana, crack, and other hard narcotics when she managed, incoherently, to scribble these lines.

Posted by Mike Patterson | Report as abusive

It seems more likely than ever that the U.S. is going to increase the military pressure on the border areas of Pakistan, if it has not done so already. In fact it’s interesting while Pakistan is negotiating a ceasefire with the militant groups there, the Americans have declared war on them. The dice has already been rolled, much before Obama gets in.

Posted by ranjsinha | Report as abusive

The author is quite right in stating that Pakistan is a relatively stable base as compared to failing states. United States would dare not invade Pakistan or carry out operations there without approval of the Pakistani government!

It is also an open secret that most members of ISI, the Pakistani Intelligence Agency, have supported the Taleban in Afghanistan as part of their “Strategic Depth” policy against India. The Karzai government, hence, is so Anti-Pakistan and Pro-India in its stance. There is no possible way that land-locked militants can fight the most powerful army in the world and sustain a continously successful battle without strong support from the Pakistani establishment. Their current strategy is to keep American forces tied down in Afghanistan so that they reap the benefits of military spending and excessive billings to the US government.

Obama might turn out to be a weak president like Bill Clinton. The only retaliation done by him for US Embassy bombings in Africa was a cruise missle attack on suspected terrorist bases in Afghanistan. He would also have to make a crucial decision between military spending / propping up the US economy in present times of economic crises.

Posted by Rohit | Report as abusive

[…] Source: Reuters Blog […]

Posted by How would Pakistan fare under Obama? – | Report as abusive

Another President, another failed foreign policy expected. We created the Mujahaedeen, the Taliban, and the Al Qaeda problems, along with contributing to downward spiral of Pakistan political scene over the last 30 years, as we have done in other parts of the world; and we continue to have problems cleaning it up, because our patches are without a clear understanding and appreciation of the regional complexities and history, and our as always solutions lack a long-term commitment. And what we have just done by pushing a one-size-fit-all democracy solution by bringing in two combo-administrations with dismal management experience shows how little we really know and how quickly we forget. I don’t think it’s about “How Pakistan would fare…” – that mess is going to go on for a while until an internal resolve is found – but more about “How US would fare…” in the new world and fix its modus operandi. A CHANGE is needed – indeed. But I am not sure the one promised by Mr. Barak gets us at least outside our borders.

Posted by Azhar | Report as abusive

I take the Soldier’s attitude toward Pakistan because I am a Soldier.

Nail Osama bin Laden to the wall and leave the Pakistanis to manage their own affairs.

Let’s not forget that before the autumn of 2001, Pakistan supported the Taliban in Afghanistan who were harboring Osama bin Laden.

It seems now that the Pakistani’s have wised up…and if not, so what? It’s their country, not ours. It is their nuclear weapons, not ours. India and its nuclear weapons are the counterbalance to Pakistan and its nukes.

Besides, I’d be willing to bet that no Pakistani government will ever deploy nuclear weapons. Likewise India.


P.S. While we’re on the subject of Pakistan, just let me say that I’m willing to ask Our Best & Finest to stick it out just a bit longer in Afghanistan…but that’s all…just a bit. It’s the Afghans’ country, not ours. No, I’m not an isolationist. What I am is a realist. What are we going to do…occupy every country that harbors a threatening attitude toward the United States. If that were to be U.S. foreign policy, then we might as well occupy…let’s see…well…I think you see the ridiculous nature of the kind of math that follows such a premise.

Posted by Jack | Report as abusive

Dear Sir/Madam,

Dare to raise your voice for the inevitable socio-political change in Pakistan, to empower the Pakistani , the country belongs to.

Since the creation of Pakistan the Pakistani people are left at distant from the corridor of power so that the ruling elite can do what they wanted to do in favour of their interest, leaving the Pakistani people at the mercy of circumstances. As this policy is denial of right of Pakistani people to rule their country according to their aspiration and desire to built this country, which can provide equal opportunity to all without any discrimination for the establishment of welfare society. Only the society base on tolerance, equality and justice can be the real guarantee for the prosperous and strong Pakistan there for your intention is invited to the crucial movement which could be the point of distraction or disaster.

We have already lost the major part of Pakistan in 1971 simply to save the centralised sole power to exploit this country by the ruling elite they let the country break in part then allowing the masses to rule this country democratically. In the present circumstances we are again dragging our sovereignty at stake for the external interest in the name of national interest, instead of our interest i.e. the interest of Pakistani people at large.

Mr.Musharaf, is not a problem nor the restoration of chief justice will make any difference but it is the prevailing socio-political system destroying the institution and victimizing the patriotic people like Dr.Qadeer khan ,who provide strong sense of security to the nation and the government humiliate him for the pleasure of others. At the same time Oppressed nationality also exploited and deprived from their due right and resources The current system with centralize sole power at the centre in the hands of one or few of them ,where in transparency and accountability can not be established, is responsible for all this mess need to be change for prosperity of Pakistani, otherwise exploitation and injustice will continue to exist in one form or the other. Pakistani are deprived from their right to rule this country since last 60 years.

The only way out of these crucial circumstances is to empower the common Pakistani at grass route level i.e. the change of system. This change is inevitable for the prosperous Pakistan . Along with basic guarantees for the creation of welfare state, where in public representative and institution shall be answerable and accountable to the masses.

Kindly see web site…

Kindly acknowledge with your comments.

Ilyas khan Baloch
Organizer Islamic Democratic Party

Posted by Ilyas khan Baloch | Report as abusive