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Viewpoints: The Impact of Elections in Pakistan

Author: Daniel S. Markey, Adjunct Senior Fellow for India, Pakistan, and South Asia
May 13, 2013


Nawaz Sharif's victory will pose new challenges for the United States. The centre-right leader has little affection for Washington or its post-9/11 counter-terror campaign in South Asia.

And unless Sharif and Pakistan's army can quickly move past old vendettas to forge a stable working relationship, US officials will find it tricky to navigate between Mr Sharif and the generals.

That will complicate already sensitive dealings on issues like drones and reconciliation talks with the Afghan Taliban.

But the story is not entirely gloomy. Mr Sharif's pro-business rhetoric is music to many American ears.

If the PML-N government follows through on campaign promises and delivers a few quick and convincing policy reforms on taxes, power or infrastructure, it would translate into more jobs, profits and government revenues.

These are all essential components of national stability. Good governance will not be brought to Pakistan overnight, yet US officials would welcome even modest improvements after years of dysfunction in a country of nearly 200 million people that frequently ranks near the top of global "failing state" indexes.

The other appealing component of Mr Sharif's message has to do with India. Islamabad and New Delhi have been inching forward on a trade deal that Sharif can reasonably be expected to push over the goal line.

Normalised relations between South Asia's two nuclear-armed states would help US officials sleep more soundly at night.

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