There is a general feeling within Pakistan, especially among the literati and the talking heads on TV, that the US — the White House, CIA, Pentagon, the State Department, Congress and Joe Six-pack — is obsessed with Pakistan, hawking the uncertainty of the next 9/11-like threat.
There appears to be a consensus across party lines in the US presidential election campaign that Pakistan is the single most deadly threat to US homeland security. Partisans of the two parties seem to be fear mongers hawking the near-certainty of the next 9/11-like threat originating from the hills of Bajaur or Waziristan instead of the caves of Afghanistan. There is also agreement that this threat must be pre-empted, with or without Pakistan on board.
The unraveling of the state in Pakistan makes it all the more tempting for the Americans — politicians, generals, academics, crystal ball-gazers et al — to reckon that this is ideal moment to mount pressure. So contagious and over-powering is the fear of Pakistan failing or falling apart in its perceived role of fighting terrorists in the front trenches of Bush’s global war on terror, that neither of the two US presidential hopefuls in the race — John McCain or Barack Obama — can afford to take their eyes off the threat.
Obama was the first to set the alarm bells ringing on Pakistan when he advocated the use of raw power against terrorists on the Pakistani side of the prickly hedge - the Pak-Afghan border. According to Dr Hassan Askari Rizvi, a prominent writer and political analyst, Obama is most known in Pakistan for his call to go after high-value Al Qaeda and Taliban targets inside Pakistan, and most Pakistanis despise his ’all guns blazing’ policy.
Dr Hasan Askari believes Obama’s statements contradict his supposition that America’s standing in the world is important to US national security and needs to be improved. "Not only does this policy hurt US relations with the Pakistani public, it also alienates Pakistan’s military. And the worst thing Washington can do right now is to pit Pakistani institutions against one another and push away Pakistan’s military, especially at a time like this — when they are essential for security purposes. Therefore, it seems Barack Obama would not bode well for the Pak-US military relations, which have already deteriorated considerably in recent past."
On the other hand, Dr Askari says the greatest flaw in Republican candidate John McCain’s policy is that he has yet to really come to terms with the existence of a civil, democratic government in Pakistan and there are many in the country who believe he has failed to adapt it to a post-Musharraf Pakistan. "He fails to include Pakistan in his proposed League of Democracies. He seems in denial, or his talking points have yet to be updated-so much that he is confused as to what the new president’s name is." Askari pointed out that John McCain masterfully dished out the tricky names of Eastern European leaders, yet referred to Asif Ali Zardari as ’Kardari’ recently during a debate.
According to Sardar Asif Ahmed Ali, a former foreign minister of Pakistan, as far as the Democrats are concerned, the Pakistani establishment has always been wary of them since they prefer to deal with a democratic set-up and look disdainfully at dictatorships. "While Barack Obama would like to develop stronger ties with Pakistan’s civilian government, McCain seems as if he would like to strengthen ties with Pakistani military as his Pakistan policy seems more influenced by Richard Armitage than Ashley Tellis, the architect of the Indo-US nuclear deal .
Pakistan’s military has been, and will for the near to midterm, be a major power broker in Pakistan. It is obviously essential to resolving Pakistan’s security challenges. But ties between the United States and Pakistani military have deteriorated considerably in recent months and the next president of the Unites States should try to improve these relations," he added.