The future of US-Pakistan relations
Pakistan’s internal dynamics and changing role in the world
The Biden presidency and the future of America’s ‘forever wars’
It would be fair to describe the T.T.P. [Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan] as the ideological twin of the Afghan Taliban. When the Taliban took over Afghanistan last year, the T.T.P. hailed the Taliban’s ‘victory’ and renewed its oath of allegiance.
Towards the end of 2020, once President Biden was elected and the withdrawal from Afghanistan was imminent, Pakistan pitched a geo-economics-based relationship with the US... The US-Pakistan relationship for the last 14, 15 months has now been characterised by a cold shoulder by the Biden administration to the Khan government... [Khan] was saying he wanted an independent foreign policy, he wanted good relationships with all counties – that is the foreign policy approach both of the civilian government and the military … [But] in the last few months it ended up looking different because of visits to China and Russia, whereas there hasn’t been a relationship really with the White House. [The military] does want a positive relationship with the US and looking like Pakistan is not properly balancing its relationships with the US and with China, is something the military does not like.
[Shehbaz Sharif] is seen as someone who gets things done. [Whether Sharif will choose to be in power for a year and then hold elections, or call early elections is] a big question. We don’t know yet. [Sharif is known to have a good relationship with military leaders, and he’s not a figure likely to antagonize them but] he’s never held national office before, other than being a leader of the opposition for the last three years, so this is going to be a test for him.
[After Imran Khan veered from military leaders’ foreign policy priorities and clashed with them over major military appointments, they helped orchestrate his fall]. This fits into the larger historical arc of a civilian government losing favor with the establishment, that is Pakistan’s military, and that leads to their ouster from office. Just the mechanisms through which things are happening now are different because of constitutional changes made over the years to guard against the establishment.
[More recently, the relationship between the military and Khan has worsened, and that gave the political opposition an opening to act against him.] This is part of a larger history of instability in Pakistan in which prime ministers are ousted from power, because they lose the support of Pakistan’s military. [President Joe Biden did not phone Khan in his initial days in office, though he did call the leader of India, Pakistan’s chief rival.] The Biden administration’s cold shoulder to Imran Khan rubbed him the wrong way. Pakistan has just fallen off a little bit of the radar in terms of high-level engagement.
[The government has] turned a political crisis into a constitutional crisis through unconstitutional means. They have subverted the rule of law in the country. It is a setback for Pakistan's democracy. It's not clear at all that Khan's party can win enough seats in parliament in the next election, especially without the military's backing.