At a conference held on Monday night in the US capital, this viewpoint was presented.
“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,” according to Lisa Curtis, who oversaw South and Central Asian affairs in the Trump White House, who also noted that the army controls decision-making on crucial matters for the US, such as the nuclear programme, Pakistan’s friendships with India, and combating terrorism.
However, Ms. Curtis added that because it is “an inherently unstable form of government,” this type of hybrid democracies would be bad for Pakistan.
In response to a question about how Mr. Khan’s return to prominence might affect US-Pakistan relations, she stated that, “Even though Imran Khan very unhelpfully used the US as a scapegoat when he lost power, were he to be reelected, there will be a certain amount of pragmatism that might become part of the equation .” She anticipated “some effort to make amends with Washington.”
In addition to Hussain Haqqani, a former Pakistani ambassador to Washington, Douglas London, a former CIA analyst and agent, Javid Ahmad, a former Afghan ambassador to the UAE, and others took part in the conversation. The event was chaired by Marvin Weinbaum, the Middle East Institute (MEI), Washington’s director of Pakistan/Afghanistan Studies.
The relationship between Pakistan and the US, according to Ms. Curtis and Mr. Haqqani, has deteriorated since the US was still occupying Afghanistan. According to Ms. Curtis, the US wanted to make sure Pakistan would not ally itself more closely with China and that there were still strong opinions held against Islamabad on Afghanistan. The US “wants Pakistan to support it in Ukraine,” she continued.
Since the US left Afghanistan, tensions between the two nations have decreased, according to Mr. London, and Washington didn’t want to lose Islamabad entirely because it was a nuclear power. He observed that there was now “greater openness” but “little substance” between the defense and intelligence organisations of the two nations.
Pakistan, according to Mr. Ahmad has, ” all the ingredients to self-destruct at any time.” Mr. Haqqani pointed out that after the Partition, Islamabad needed the US-Pakistan relationship for economic reasons, but the country’s leaders paid little heed to this. “the sustenance of relations must be economic and not military”, he continued.
Mr. Haqqani believed that the army was still working to sway political outcomes, albeit covertly. According to Ms. Curtis, the army was not prepared for Imran Khan to receive such a large amount of support after his removal, and the current political climate will present the next army chief with an “enormous challenge” as he or she works to “first rebuild consensus” within the organisation.
The PTI leader “may win, but not sweep” the upcoming elections, according to Mr. Haqqani, as he was not as well-liked as it appeared. However, Mr. Ahmed added that PTI supporters will continue to be a “huge obstacle” for the military in their disagreement with Mr. Weinbaum.
“Imran Khan has charisma and is capable of tempering anti-American sentiment if he wants to,” Ms Curtis emphasized.