Pakistan’s May 11 elections are looming large, just days away, and the front-running opposition parties are emphasizing foreign policy down the home stretch, with a particular eye US relations and the war on terror.
A high profile speech yesterday from Pakistani Tehreek-e Insaf (PTI) leader Imran Khan promised that if elected he would withdraw Pakistan from the terror war, and order the military to shoot down US drones if they violate Pakistani airspace. Today, Pakistani Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Nawaz Sharif sought to stake out a similar position, vowing to “reconsider” traditional US ties.
It isn’t hard to see why this is. Polls have for years been showing soaring anti-US sentiment in Pakistan, with the drone war in the tribal areas and the instability sparked by the 2001 occupation of neighboring Afghanistan fueling anger. While the ruling Pakistani Peoples Party (PPP) has given lip-service to opposing the drone strikes, they’ve done essentially nothing to stop them, and have gotten a reputation for being “America’s choice” in the next election, and extremely dangerous place to be given current sentiment.
Though the polls are all over the place in predicting the vote, the smart money is on voters rejecting the status quo, and the Obama Administration is likely to be facing a new reality in their relationship with Pakistan, one where unilateral US attacks will no longer fly the way they have for years.
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