The PTI government is keen to improve relations with the USA. So within days of President Joe Biden’s swearing in, SAPM Moed Yousuf dashed to Washington where he laid out his government’s stand on issues considered vital by the two countries at a think tank. The visit was aimed at conveying to the new administration that there were enough commonalities between the two countries and both would benefit by working together. For this there was a need to redefine the relationship.
Pakistan, maintained the SAPM, wanted to go beyond a transactional relationship which is centered around Afghanistan and the fight against terrorism. Pakistan wanted a partnership with the USA in development through trade and investment instead of assistance. It was in fact keen to extend the relationship further. For this there was a need for a structured high level dialogue encompassing global issues like climate change, reduction of hostility between the USA on the one hand and China and Iran on the other. Pakistan was ready to play the role of the mediator. Pak-China-US economic partnership in CPEC projects, he said, would benefit the region and beyond.
Isn’t PTI government biting off more than it can chew?
There were questions after the talk that Mr Yousuf had no convincing answers for. Did Pakistan have a conducive business climate for investment? His tentative answer was that due to the CPEC, the infrastructure is better than it was six to seven years back. Asked whether Pakistan had legislation to provide a one-window operation, he said this was not certain. Reminded that building democracy was high on President Biden’s agenda, asked whether Prime Minister Imran Khan would make necessary changes in his policy regarding human rights that included freedom of expression, civilian supremacy and provincial autonomy? The answers given would convince few in Pakistan where media remains under unprecedented pressure.
Mr Yousuf maintained that conversation in Pakistan is more democratic than in any other country as any individual or institution could be openly criticized, sometimes beyond an acceptable level. He insisted that Pakistan had developed a most efficient model of civil-military relations where the Army is used in accordance with the Constitution to assist the government without in any way undermining democracy. Can claims that continue to be challenged by many in Pakistan convince the outsiders?