Media Conference Call on the Pakistani Elections 2013

Speakers: Cameron Munter, Former U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan, and Daniel Markey, Senior Fellow for India, Pakistan, and South Asia, Council on Foreign Relations

Presider: Anya Schmemann, Director for Editorial Strategy, Studies Program and Director, Task Force Program, Council on Foreign Relations

OPERATOR: I would now like to turn today’s conference over to Ms. Anya Schmemann. Ms. Schmemann, please begin.

ANYA SCHMEMANN: Thank you. And hello, everyone, and thank you for joining us this morning. I’m Anya Schmemann. I’m director of editorial strategy at the Council on Foreign Relations. And I’m pleased that you’re joining us for this on-the-record media conference call on the Pakistani elections.

As we know, Pakistan held nationwide elections over the weekend. The vote count indicates a big win for Nawaz Sharif’s party, meaning that Sharif will be prime minister for a third time. And the vote marks the first time the civilian government completed a full five-year term and transferred power in a democratic election.

With me to discuss these historic elections and the implications for U.S.-Pakistan elections is my colleague, Daniel Markey, who is senior fellow for India, Pakistan and South Asia at the Council on Foreign Relations. He has a forthcoming book on the future of the U.S.-Pakistan relationship called, “No Exit From Pakistan,” which will be out at the end of the summer.

We’re also joined by a special guest today, Cameron Munter, who served as U.S. ambassador to Pakistan from October 2010 until July 2012. He served as a diplomat also in Iraq, Serbia, the Czech Republic and Poland and other high-level posts in the government and is currently a visiting professor at Pomona College. We’re glad to have you with us, Ambassador, and thank you for joining us, Dan.

DANIEL MARKEY: Happy to be here.

SCHMEMANN: Dan, let me start with you. You wrote a recent CFR policy innovation memo calling — called “Support Process over Personalities in Pakistan” — where you called on the United States to encourage a rules-based process for a leadership transition in Pakistan. So looking at these elections, was that rules-based process followed? Were these elections free and fair? The White House recently called the election a significant milestone. Was it that?

MR. MARKEY: Yeah, thanks, Anya. I think that it basically was. That is, the elections were marked by very high voter turn out, about 60 percent nationally, and by a campaign that was quite active and by a very spirited back and forth between the two major contenders in the Punjab — this PTI party led by the former cricket player Imran Khan and the PMLN, Nawaz Sharif.

That said, there were problems, pretty significant problems, during the campaign season — very high violence directly primarily at the — at the political parties that had been in the ruling coalition over the past five years, the Pakistan People’s Party of President Zardari; the ANP, a party that’s got its main base up in Pakistan’s northwest, bordering Afghanistan; and the MQM, a party based primarily in urban Sindh and the city of Karachi. These parties bore the brunt of the violence, and they did — except for the MQM, which is widely believed to have a capacity to rig elections in Karachi — aside from the MQM, the others did very poorly in the actual voting.

So there were problems, but I think that the fact is that these parties that had been in power were also relatively unpopular at this point. They probably would have done poorly. They were in somewhat disarray. Certainly the PPP is experiencing some major problems in terms of its leadership. And so it’s not surprising that they did poorly, but the violence really is a problem there. And the rigging — the allegations of rigging are also problematic because they do raise questions about the overall legitimacy of the process.

I think, having said all of that, though, that most Pakistanis would agree with the Obama administration’s assessment: this was a milestone, having a democratic election after five years of a democratic civilian government in power. This is a step largely in the right direction.

Just a couple of other points. The two major contenders, Sharif and Imran Khan, went at it pretty hard in the elections. Imran Khan was disappointed, I think. His party was disappointed. He had been calling for a tsunami of young and other disaffected voters to come to his side and it didn’t happen that way. Nawaz Sharif really did sweep. And so the issue there or the question there is why Imran was unable to translate what appears to be a personal popularity and a genuine desire, widespread desire for change, why he couldn’t turn that into votes. And I think a lot of people will be debating that.

And the last point would be that, while Nawaz Sharif did win the Punjab convincingly, this reinforced his reputation as a Punjab-centric politician. And the issue there is he didn’t win the other provinces. Smaller regional parties and the PPP won Sindh. MQM won Karachi. The PTI did well and will form a government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. And in Balochistan, you saw nationalist parties do better than the PML-N. So the ethnic fragmentation, the provincial divisions within Pakistan, were in fact highlighted by this election, and so there will be some questions about whether Nawaz Sharif can be more than a Punjab politician — whether he can bring about greater national unity going forward.

SCHMEMANN: Thank you, Dan. Say a quick word for us about the man Sharif. This is an extraordinary comeback for Nawaz Sharif. He was ousted in a coup in 1999, was jailed and exiled, and really clawed his way back to this quite astonishing triumph. To what can we attribute that success?

MARKEY: Single-minded determination on the part of a political leader who by all accounts keeps score, probably remembers everyone who’s done him well and everyone who’s done him poorly, and intends in one way or another to set the record straight. So unbelievable focus and drive. And, over the past five years, a certain degree of patience — a sense, probably, on his part that if he waited, power would fall back into his hands. And so he didn’t bring down the last government or seriously attempt to, although there were moments there where it looked like he might.

And now his plan, if it was a plan, has worked. Looks like all of his constituents who had been loyal supporters rallied back to his side. He won over a number of new voters. I mean, with voter turnout being this high, it didn’t all go to the new party; it went back to the PML-N.

And so now the question is how he’s likely to manage what had been a pretty troubled relationship with the military. As you said, he was ousted by Musharraf. How will he deal with Musharraf himself? Musharraf’s now under house arrest outside of Islamabad. The question there is whether Sharif will be somewhat magnanimous in his victory, let Musharraf off the hook, or if he’s going to go for blood.

We don’t know, but the consequence of those decisions and whether Sharif has learned some lessons from his time in office in the ’90s, will determine whether he can kind of stabilize the country, continue to focus on the economy — which is what he says he wants to do — and kind of right the ship of state in very important ways that I think would be really cheered here in the United States and elsewhere as well.

SCHMEMANN: Interesting, thank you. So Ambassador Munter, as Nawaz Sharif prepares to take office, he said this week on Monday that he wants good relations with the United States, but he also criticized the drone strike program in the tribal regions and said it was a challenge to national sovereignty. He also said that he hopes to improve relations with India.

But what can we realistically expect from him? Will his third turn in office be different? Will relations with the United States be more difficult or is there — are there signs of hope?

CAMERON MUNTER: Well, thank you very much. And I’m actually quite optimistic that Nawaz Sharif is sincere in trying to turn over a new leaf and to make things move forward. I think what Dan said is very, very important, that his main issue and the main thing that will decide his success in foreign policy is not so much a quick start in foreign policy but a quick start on domestic issues like the economy.

Much of what I think got him this rather surprisingly large and sweeping victory was that he — that many of the people there look to him to try to do a better job in managing the economy and managing kind of the social strife that exists in Pakistan.

So if he is able to start out with such moves as, an excellent choice — a well-respected choice for his finance minister, Senator Dar, or a small Cabinet that would be seen as not being just nepotism and patronage — those kind of steps could help him get the credibility that he needs to do stronger things in foreign policy.

Similarly that very important point that he not just see himself as a Punjabi and be perceived as a Punjabi politician, but that he’ll be a representative of all Pakistanis. That will take some work domestically, but ultimately that’ll be the basis from which he’ll carry out foreign policy.

As far as it goes with the United States, I think that he is straight up about this. I think he does want to have good relations with us. Throughout my time and ambassador and I think, when I talk to some of my predecessors, he made every effort to try to stay in close contact. I think he’s going to be very careful with us.

I think he’s going to try to see that we have a balanced — by his definition — a balanced policy — a policy that has not only the very real concerns on the common efforts we have against terrorism, but also the concerns we have to build relationships in the region, like what he’s done in the opening to India and what we all can plan on in the post-2014 period in Afghanistan.

So I would say marked by caution, but by openness to us. And especially these comments that he said about we have to talk about how we’re going to work on counterterrorism together.

I think this is precisely consistent with the way that the — you know, that the U.S. government wants to work with the Pakistani leadership, that is to find where we have common ground, to find those places in the, say, the fight against the militants and in the way that we deal with the end of the current phase of what’s happening in Afghanistan, that we find common ground, rather than focusing on what divides us.

And much of what’s been written in recent years, thanks to the difficulties of the last couple of years in the relationship, is a focus on what divides us. And I think Nawaz is going to look at — if he can — at what unites us. And I think we’d be wise to take his lead.

SCHMEMANN: Could you say a word as well about Pakistan-India relations? He made some positive comments there. Is it likely that those relations will be improved?

MUNTER: I think so. Every time I talked with Nawaz, and with Shahbaz his brother — who I guess we assume will stay on as the chief minister in Punjab — there was a smart focus on the economic impact of the measures that are being discussed between these two countries to improve visa processes, to improve the ability to get goods across the border — which is called negative lists, et cetera.

And not only that, kind of a long list of issues that can be dealt with piece by piece so that the countries can move slowly closer together, in the interest of both countries. I think Nawaz has been a big supporter of that. And, to his credit, so has Imran Khan. And I think that one of the questions that Dan talked about, which is the relation that Nawaz needs to develop with military at this point, will be key here.

I think many Indians, because of historical reasons, seem to have a suspicion of the Pakistani military. And the Pakistan military, working with Nawaz, in a kind of positive way, could go a great — could go a distance to alleviate those fears.

But I think that unless they’re able to come up with a comprehensive or a coherent approach to India that involves not only the power players among the civilians, but among the military, there may be limits to what they can do.

SCHMEMANN: OK, thank you. So overall, some positive signs, but still a lot of uncertainty. I think we will take questions now, so Operator, if you can give those instructions.

Ambassador, our line with you is a little fuzzy, so I would just ask that if you answer questions, that you speak loudly and clearly as possible.

Operator, we’ll take some questions.

OPERATOR: Thank you. (Gives queuing instructions.)


Our first question comes from Ashish Sen with the Washington Times.

QUESTIONER: Hi, thank you so much for doing this call.

I’d like to ask you a bit about voter turnout. Dan touched on this in his opening remarks. Turnout in Punjab Province is as high as 80 percent, while in Balochistan, it was around 20 percent and some say it was even lower.

What do you both see is the significance of this lopsided turnout for Pakistan in the long term?

Thank you.


MARKEY: Yeah, the caller’s exactly right. Balochistan was both a difficult place to campaign, an almost impossible place for journalists and reporters to get stories out of and apparently, a very difficult place to vote from. And this will only reinforce the notion and, I think, the correct notion, the Balochistan is a deeply troubled province in Pakistan, where the military continues to hold sway to the extent that anyone does, militancy and violence are likely to remain high and a sense of provincial alienation is quite real.

And Nawaz Sharif will have his work cut out for him to try to remedy that, just as the last government did. This is nothing new. And here too, he will be working or have to work with the Pakistani military to find a way forward that brings back on board some of — at least some segment of the Baloch nationalists in a way that doesn’t encourage secessionism, but also suggests that Balochistan has a real place within Pakistan as a whole.

As for the very high turnout in Punjab, I mean, this is a very encouraging sign. We’ve heard a lot of polls or surveys suggesting that Pakistanis really don’t believe in democracy, that they tend to favor military rule and so on and so forth.

You know, I don’t want to put too much stock in one or the other. But I think that if anything, we should see the high voter turn out as a sign that Pakistanis really do want to have a say in who runs the country and that they’re willing to come out in droves to make that clear. And that doesn’t just mean that they want change because this time they voted for an old and familiar face primarily in Punjab and didn’t all line up behind the newer face in Imran Kahn.

MUNTER: Yeah, I think from my perspective, I think that the point about Balochistan is absolutely right. And let me comment on the point about Punjab. One of the things that I think brought people to the elections was the kind, not just the numbers, of people that even Nawaz or Imran might have brought to the game, but the messages that they were following. And I give Imran a great deal of credit for this, being able to bring issues to the fore about corruption, to talk about accountability, to talk about governance.

These were things which in the past, hadn’t been emphasized as much. And many of the people who were angry or at least frustrated with the performance of the government between 2008 and 2013, were looking for people to talk about those kinds of issues. And to his credit, Imran, I think, forced Nawaz also to address those questions so that that 80 percent, whether they voted for Nawaz or for Imran, I think they all voted for a clean government. They all voted for pushing ahead and not doing things as they’ve always done.

And there’s kind of an ambiguity to the question of whether Nawaz is just, you know, putting someone back into power who was the old guy. I think Nawaz was pressed by Imran to say that he too stood for something new, for tendencies that will be different and that this is something that we should — all the friends of Pakistan, foreign countries, should be cheerful about.

SCHMEMANN: Thank you. We’ll take the next question.

OPERATOR: Thank you.

Our next question comes from Khalid Khattak with Wall Street Journal.

QUESTIONER: Yes, my question is for the panelists is about U.S.-Pakistan future relationship under the PLM-N leadership, Nawaz Sharif. Basically, my question is, like, Pakistan conducted its first-ever nuclear test in 1998 under the premiership of Nawaz Sharif. And his party, during the last five years, ruled Punjab province, and there were reports that his party has (soft collar ?) for Jemaat-u-Dawa, which is alleged for his involvement in 2008 Mumbai attacks. So if any one of you could please comment on these two aspects, like how do you see future of Nawaz Sharif vis-a-vis these incidents or — thank you.

SCHMEMANN: Ambassador, let’s start with you. So the nuclear question and the counterterrorism.

MUNTER: Well, let me start with the counterterrorism question first.

This is — this is a key issue that I think Nawaz understands. I certainly hope he does, and I hope we understand that this is a topic that we have to discuss not just civilian to civilian, not just military to military, but you know, in a comprehensive way we have to talk about the common ground we have in the stability of Pakistan, what we can contribute to the future of working together. We’ve had some bad years in that cooperation, but Nawaz I think has made it clear that he wants to talk about what is it that needs to be done, what is it that America can do in concert with Pakistani authorities to fight terrorism. And the moving target here is what is it that’s going to happen in 2014 that’s going to change the way that America deals with Pakistan and the way America deals with the region.

I can only say that I found that his comments were fairly open-minded and that I think what he’s trying to do — what I hope he’s trying to do is to leave the door open for not grandstanding or broadcasting ideas in advance, but for sitting down for very meaningful discussions with our military authorities and with our civilian authorities to talk about the future. And I hope that when he does so on this counterterrorism future he doesn’t limit it simply to the internal question of Pakistan, but how things in the region are going to have an impact.

I think on the question of nuclear issues, this is something that we want to make sure that we’re not prisoners of the past. I mean, it’s — there’s a lot of back and forth that took place in the 1990s from the (press room ?) and then onward that while it is very important, it is not something — let’s make sure that we don’t refight the battles of the 1990s. I think that coming to this question also with open minds, looking how things have changed in the last 10 years — for example, the American relationship with India — and being realistic about how our cooperation should work should be a hallmark for the way America approaches Pakistan and I hope the way that Nawaz approaches the United States.

SCHMEMANN: Dan, anything to add?

MARKEY: Yeah. Just a quick observation that Nawaz Sharif and his ruling coalition and his party, in fact, are kind of pulled in two distinct directions. On the one hand, they’re a party, a pro-business party — yes, Punjab-centric — but they want to see national economic growth, and they’ve made that very clear. And in addition to that, they recognize that improved relations with India, stability with India, and even trade openings with India all serve those purposes. So those are the — that’s sort of the positive face of the party and of Nawaz Sharif.

But as the caller noted, he’s also been associated with, affiliated with in some instances, more extreme organizations in Punjab, and the question is whether he will actually try to forthrightly tackle the problem of Jemaat-u-Dawa, Lashkar e-Taiba, and whether he will pull away from the face of being kind of a hard-line nuclear hawk — which, frankly, is what he was in the 1990s. And how can he manage both of these things at once? It’s going to be a very difficult balancing act for him.

My own sense is that the best way forward is for him to move very quickly on the economic front, make — try to notch up some quick victories there to show that he has the economic story a bit under control. And that will give him more power, more legitimacy to tackle some of these harder issues, which may be difficult within his — within his own party and his own coalition.

SCHMEMANN: Thank you.

Operator, we’ll take another question.

OPERATOR: Thank you. Next question comes from Shaun Tandon with AFPP (sic/AFP).

QUESTIONER: Yeah, with AFP. Thanks for doing this call.

This question was answered a little bit before by Ambassador Munter, but just from your — from your previous experience, I wanted to see how you saw Sharif on these issues on which you sometimes criticized the idea that perhaps he’s been a bit soft on extremists in the past. From your interaction with him, how did you see him? Where do you see him standing? Is that somebody who generally shares the same views of the United States about the need to crack down on extremists, or is it a different equation then from the PPP?

MUNTER: Yeah, you know, it’s much as Dan said. This is not simply a clear question, I think, of how did you feel about this group or how did you feel about tactics that are being dealt with in the counterterrorism fight?

I think that what he primarily wants to be able to do — I would hope that this is the approach he is taking — is to establish himself as someone who has credibility and legitimacy with the Pakistani population, once again not just a Punjabi politician but someone who speaks to the needs of all Pakistanis to have a clean and open government, a government that they feel they can believe in.

Turning from that, once he has established that — and I would imagine that’s what we should look for in the first hundred days — he can then say to two different groups: Look, I have this kind of power, and it’s then possible for me to work as a broker between those people who feel — and let’s put it in certain ways — either humiliated or frustrated by the way that the war on terror has gone, and those people who feel very much that Pakistan has to do more in the fight against terror, but that he can be an arbiter of this kind of debate within the country and with the Americans and other interested countries only after he has established himself as a credible, clean, powerful and understanding leader in the country.

So what I would expect us to do is to see him probably not really tackle those kinds of questions, the counterterrorism questions, until he has really nailed down his economic policy and his policy of governance.

QUESTIONER: Thank you.

SCHMEMANN: Operator, let’s take another question.

OPERATOR:Our next question comes from Azim Mayin (ph) with GoTV.

QUESTIONER: Hi, Ambassador Munter. Hi again. My question is about these irregularities which have caused a lot of commotion and confrontation in Karachi and some parts of Lahore.

Do you regard it as only procedural irregularities, or these are the serious rigging of, you know, issues to be tackled by Nawaz Sharif and Imran Khan, and how this will pave the way for the future conciliation or confrontation?

And my other question is, how about this Washington Post report that Americans preferred more Nawaz Sharif than Imran Khan, and they tried to pave the way for Nawaz Sharif?

SCHMEMANN: Dan, why don’t you take on the irregularities first?

MARKEY: Yeah, these are not just procedural irregularities as far as anyone can tell. The numbers are kind of astounding. You just can’t get the numbers of people voting that go well beyond the number of registered without some serious problems.

The challenge for Nawaz Sharif, particularly, say, in Karachi, is how far does he want to pursue this problem? You know, the main perpetrator, as far as I can tell, is said to be the MQM. The MQM does have a very strong hold in Karachi City, and also will stand very firm if challenged on these issues.

So there will be a revote. I don’t anticipate the MQM is going to lose any seats that it won before. How far is this new government going to push it? I don’t anticipate all that far. They just don’t want to pick a fight with the MQM right off the bat, and that’s exactly what they’d be doing.

So, you know, procedural irregularities go well beyond that, but now it’s a political question. What fights do you want to pick? And this goes back to something Ambassador Munter said, that Nawaz Sharif is going to have to pick and choose his battles upfront, and this is probably one that he’d want to steer clear of.

And even Imran Khan, while he’s made some points about rigging in Punjab, I don’t think that he wants to push this too much further. They need to move forward. I think everybody agrees with that, and they’re going to probably let basically the outcome stand.

The one other point I would make has to do with right out of the gate Nawaz Sharif really needs to be careful on his appointments, because everybody in Pakistan will be watching to see who he picks for cabinet positions, and who his party picks for positions in Punjab.

And here, if he basically pays off some of the more extreme members of his political coalition and gives them jobs, everybody else will notice very clearly. That will send a message. So if he’s looking to avoid fights from the outset, how he picks his appointees will matter a great deal.

SCHMEMANN: Let me go to the ambassador on the second part of the question about America playing favorites. Is there any evidence that Washington did that?

MUNTER: I see no evidence of that.

SCHMEMANN: OK, thank you.

Next question, please.

OPERATOR: The next question comes from Aarti Ramachandran with Foreign Policy Administration.

SCHMEMANN: Yes, hello. We’re ready for your question.

QUESTIONER: Hi. Thanks for taking my question. I — this is sort of the same theme as some of the other questions, but Sharif’s party has a pretty conservative Islamic base, and given all the news about, you know, the blasphemy laws, and, you know, the persecution of the Ahmadi community and so forth, I was wondering what you thought about what his win means for, you know, the future of any secular movement or secularism in Pakistan very broadly.

SCHMEMANN: Thank you. So, Dan, what are we to make of the conservative elements?

MARKEY: Well, I would step back just a bit and say to look at the performance of the last five years of the Pakistan Peoples Party government and to say that many of Pakistan’s minorities, despite the fact that the government was seen as more progressive, center-left, pro — in some ways secular and pro-human rights, women’s rights, minority rights — as far as it goes in Pakistan, they were all of those things, and yet, many of those groups suffered gravely from violence, from attacks. And when push came to shove, unfortunately, the Pakistan People’s Party leaders really weren’t able to stand up and be counted and to push their agenda firmly. They themselves felt threatened, under attack, and some of them were literally killed.

So I think now we have to look at this new government. And we see no greater interest in pursuing these interests — in fact, far less than the previous government. So it will not be high on their agenda. And all of the limitations on the pursuit — the political limitations on pushing these kinds of lines will still be there. So frankly, I’m not optimistic about the direction the country will be taking on these issues. I don’t think it’s necessarily going to be a calamity, but this will not be a time for a focus by Pakistan’s, government, by the ruling party on minority rights and so on, and that’s unfortunate.

And I think that the other, bigger question is whether this election will be, in the — in the sweep of history, seen as the end of a left-right and progressive versus conservative politics in Pakistan, whether we’ve seen a fundamental realignment here, whether the PPP will have to retreat into being almost a Sindhi regional party and less of a national progressive party in the face of its serious beating throughout the rest of the country, or whether, as a party, it can reassert itself and take back that ground. That remains to be seen, but as you can probably tell from what I’ve said so far, I’m worried.

SCHMEMANN: Ambassador, how about these social and civil issues? What is your sense?

MUNTER: Well, just two brief comments on that. You know, we’ve known Nawaz Sharif for a long time. You know the famous story that Bill Clinton was instrumental in intervening at the time of the coup to make sure that he was able to go into exile and not end up in jail for a long period of time. And there are — there are personal ties that go back a long time. And we talked with Nawaz Sharif and his people, and they know very well where the West — and the United States in particular, but the West in general feels about human rights issues, about civil rights issues, about social justice and those kinds of questions, as seen in a broad sense.

And so, adding on to what Dan said about whether this will be seen as a watershed election, whether it’s going to be end of the left-right politics, it might also be the question that Nawaz gets to decide, is Pakistan going to continue on the path that some people have seen as being somewhat limited in its outlook — in its horizons?

Is it going to be inward-looking, or is Nawaz, as part of, for example, the opening to India, not only going to let in goods, but also going to let in the idea that the success that many other countries have had in the region, that Pakistan — that has eluded Pakistan is because they’ve opened up to the world — to the world economy and to the world practices — the kind of governance practices that are not just about honesty, et cetera, but also about tolerance and about the different kind of rules that people play by if they want to be taken seriously on the world stage.

I think this is something where friends of Pakistan should stand firm with Nawaz, as we have in the past, and say, look, you’ve known us for a long time. You’ve known what it takes to take part and be serious — seen as serious in the future. The choice of being inward-looking and not taking these things into account — the fear that Dan, I think, rightly raised, is — could be offset by open-minded, new thinking that brings Pakistan into the 21st century, and we all hope that will happen.

SCHMEMANN: Thank you. We’ll take another question.

OPERATOR: Next question comes from Lee Cullum with North Texas Media.

QUESTIONER: Thank you very much. This has been a fascinating session. I want to ask you first about the fate of Musharraf. Is he going to be allowed to go back into exile? And if the Pakistan People’s Party is going to retreat into a regional stand, then what becomes of the Bhutto family? What about the son of Benazir Bhutto? Is there any future for him?


MARKEY: Yeah, I think that it would be very smart for Nawaz Sharif to tread lightly on the Musharraf issue and to leave an exit option open for Musharraf, in spite of their personal animosity and, you might say, vendetta. I don’t know whether Nawaz Sharif will be able to bring himself to that. And I frankly don’t know whether Musharraf will push at the line in ways that both endanger his own life and also court a political crisis in Pakistan.

I don’t really understand fully what Musharraf’s agenda is and whether he might, as he has in the past, push beyond the point where many other would have called it a day and stepped out. He always struck me as a commando mentality. He said as much in the past. He’s really stepped into some trouble here and I don’t know how he’s going to extricate himself with honor, which is something that he seeks. And Nawaz Sharif can help let him do that, but I’m not — I’m not certain that he will.

As for the future of the PPP, I think that Asif Zardari has not acquitted himself well as president, has not managed his party well as head of the PPP. This has come about in terms of the moves by PPP stalwarts away from the party, some of them. Many others have been basically pushed out or pushed to the side. It’s basically become a vehicle for Zardari. And many of the ideals of his predecessors have been jettisoned in the service of pragmatic, and many would say corrupt, politics.

Bilawal is still very young, showed no evidence that he’s capable of running a national party of this scale, did everything — almost everything from afar. The party is feeling like it needs a full rethink. And it’s feeling very much a victim of the violence inside of Pakistan. Under those circumstances, I think the future of the party would be best managed by some of the prior bigger names inside the party, but they are not Bhuttos. And that’s a problem for a dynastic party that never really established a great institutional base. So again, I’m worried and right now they really do seem in retreat.

QUESTIONER: Thank you.

SCHMEMANN: Ambassador, any comments on this revolving cast of characters?

MUNTER: Yeah, I really think that Dan covered it all and, you know, that these are — it’s hard for me to believe that the PPP, with its, you know, long history will simply agree to be a regional party. But they’re going to have to find different approaches and they’re going to have to go back to some of the ideals that they seem to have lost, at least in the public eyes, in recent years.

SCHMEMANN: Thank you. We’re coming to the end of our time, but let’s take another question here.

OPERATOR: Yes. Our final question comes from Ayesha Tanzeem with Voice of America.

QUESTIONER: Yes, thank you. My question is that in KPK, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, seems like Imran Kahn is going to make a government with Jamaat-e-Islami. And both of those parties have made anti-war on terror, anti-drone noises in the last few years. I’m wondering if that complicates the kind of cooperation the U.S. is looking for in the next few years, vis-a-vis the withdrawal from Afghanistan and the drone strikes. What do you think about that?


MARKEY: Sure. I think this is actually a really fascinating question because now that the PTI has actually won something, which is — which is new — they’ve won control basically over the ability to run a coalition government Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. Now the question is, do they actually run it effectively? Can they take the energy and enthusiasm and translate it into a more effective, cleaner government in a place that hasn’t known that for — certainly for the past decade, and in many ways much, much longer than that?

But will they also become a party — working with JI in coalition — a party that’s primarily an oppositional party on these issues of drone strikes and cooperation with the United States, sort of shouting out against what Nawaz Sharif is doing in Islamabad? In fact — in other words, will they position themselves as a right of the right party and use that opposition to try to win over even greater support among their constituents in Pakistan’s northwest, or will they take a somewhat more responsible approach, try to find — try to focus on governance issues, which was their — was in fact why many people voted for them in the first place — to focus on corruption issues and better management.

That remains to be seen. One other little piece here, though, is that their coalition also, as far as I can tell, is likely to include or does include this smaller party, the Qaumi Watan Party of Aftab Sherpao, who is a — sort of a traditional, provincial politician and who worked within the Musharraf government and may be a voice of some greater sort of traditional stability and conciliation and may push them a little bit more toward the center and away from an active, oppositional role.

But if they take a very active oppositional role, they could cause some trouble for the Pakistani military operations and for what remains of the U.S. presence in the consulate in Peshawar and otherwise. So they could be quite an irritant, if they — if they choose to be so.

SCHMEMANN: Ambassador, any final words, and then we’ll wrap up the call.

MUNTER: Yeah. On that, I think that Dan nailed it. I think that the main thing — we may notice that there was a sort of lot of rhetoric about drones and these kinds of issues, but I think — I think it’s fair to say that the reason that you had the support for people like the PTI in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is the issue of governance. And that’s who they’re going to really get down and deal with.

Whether the choose to be kind of the right wing — right wing opposition to the right wing, as Dan kind of posited was one of their options, I think much of that will depend on the ability of the central government, which after all has the — (inaudible) — for national security, to maintain its links to the military, that is to build a relationship with the military that’s fruitful and constructive, and to maintain its links to the United States, to talk about where the commonality lies.

I think that needs to happen before — I would be surprised if PTI and its allies in KPK were to make an oppositional statement before the central government kind of came up with its game plan. So I think the key thing for us in looking at this as policy question is making sure that we deal with Nawaz and his new team, which has gotten a fairly strong mandate, which is not hostage to a lot of small groups, we hope, but is able to make its own decisions about what it thinks the proper security for Pakistan should be. And only then will the questions, intriguing as they might be, be relevant about what the PTI might do.

SCHMEMANN: OK. Thank you. And with that, we will have to wrap up this call. We do want to thank everyone for those good questions, and our panelists for a very interesting discussion.

Once again, this was an on-the-record media call on Pakistan’s elections with Daniel Markey, senior fellow for India, Pakistan and South Asia at the Council on Foreign Relations, and Cameron Munter, former U.S. ambassador to Pakistan. The transcript of this call will be posted on As well you can find Daniel’s recent policy innovation memorandum and some other pieces and resources on Pakistan. So I invite you to visit the website to find more.

And with that, I thank you all and have a good day.

MARKEY: Thanks, Anya.

OPERATOR: Ladies and gentlemen, this concludes today’s teleconference. You may now disconnect.

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