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EDITORIAL: There is no question about that this country needs to hold timely general elections to resolve the prevailing political crisis that has also bogged down the economy in a morass.

Yet signs are aplenty that the electoral exercise is to be delayed as far as possible. Even our foreign friends see such procrastination as imprudent.

This came out at a seminar on “Exploring the Pillars of Democracy: US-Pakistan Relations” organised by an NGO on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly session. Representing the US government at the event, Elizabeth Horst, Deputy Assistant Secretary responsible for Pakistan, said her country remains a supporter of Pakistan’s democracy, not of any particular person or party.

“It is critical, she averred, that the people get to decide”, adding “we will continue to support Pakistan’s democracy, which includes credible elections, according to the country’s laws and the Constitution.”

The elections should be free of violence, have open competition, and a free media should be allowed to cover the electoral process. Lest anyone thought she was talking a good game, Horst explained that “Ambassador [Donald] Blome has delivered this message to all institutions and all parties, and I have delivered the same message.”

Coming from a senior State Department official these assertions will be noted with great interest in this country at a time the cipher ‘conspiracy’ controversy refuses to die down. Whatever may have been the US’ cause of angst the cipher contained, the aforementioned remarks indicate Washington is willing to do business with whichever party wins to form the next government.

If it is to ease pressures on the ousted and jailed former prime minister Imran Khan and two of his senior party colleagues currently facing legal proceedings for alleged violation of the Official Secrets Act remains to be seen. Be that as it may, a considerable body of opinion also holds that three As – Allah, Army and America — run Pakistan. Allah, of course, is always there for the people.

America’s assurances of being on side offers the sceptics some hope of ushering in what President Abraham Lincoln famously defined as a government of the people, by the people, for the people.

Furthermore, Horst rightly pointed out that democracy goes beyond elections, which is why friendship with Pakistan includes having “really strong conversations” about freedom of religion, abuses of the blasphemy law, and minority rights, “an important part of the democratic process.”

This may or may not stop certain quarters from patronising religious extremist groups frequently used for political purposes, at times to unsettle uncompromising leaders of elected governments.

Pakistan’s current economic problems also figured prominently in the US official’s talk. Noting that the current standby agreement with the IMF provides the country with a little breathing room, she emphasised the need for energy sector reforms, investing in energy infrastructure and widening the tax space — all common sense measures suggested by the IMF (International Monetary Fund) as well as our own analysts.

Stating the obvious, Horst said, that Pakistan can win over the confidence of the US and other investors only by implementing those reforms, adding that Pakistan has extraordinary human talent that can not only revive the national economy but can also contribute to the global economy, but without the right business climate that human resource cannot be tapped.

Sad as it is, standing in the way of required reforms are the ruling elites’ self-serving policies focused on enhancing the interests of that small class at the expense of vast majority of the people.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023

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KU Sep 20, 2023 02:27pm
If the US is worried about Project Pakistan, it should ensure that our usual suspects are not elected to assemblies and that justice prevails without the interference of the power corridors. It has become a joke for us when Rs. 8 billion daily is earned in corrupt practices by the very individuals with whom the US is cajoling with for better Pakistan. The US, including the EU, cannot afford to host immigrants running away from our troubled country or a destabilized country in an already troubled region.
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HashBrown® Sep 22, 2023 02:17pm
"Whatever may have been the US’ cause of angst the cipher contained, the aforementioned remarks indicate Washington is willing to do business with whichever party wins to form the next government." It's not like BR to come up with such a naive editorial. The US has NEVER been interested in preserving global democracy. From Saudi Arabia to Nicaragua, the post-war period has shown the exact opposite - sponsored unrest, extrajudicial murders, repeated interference - in order to remove democratically elected governments across the world. To think that this vile, self serving country of hypocrites is actually willing to work with elected leaders who don't want to serve US interests is a pretty shocking dismissal of the past 100 years' history.
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TidBit Sep 26, 2023 06:23pm
I agree with the commenters here, it is all the US's fault because we are not going to take responsibility for OUR actions. It was the US that stopped us from trading with our neighbors. It was not our incompetency, but US interference that made CPEC a failure. It is the US that is making us import millions in dog food when there is precious little foreign exchange. It is the USA that made us take billions in foreign loans and forced us to spend it willy-nelly. We know that Bangladesh is becoming a miracle story, and has outclassed Pakistan. But the USA is preventing us from thinking critically why Bangladesh a basket case has 10x the foreign exchange as us. I would also add, it is not just the USA that is responsible for our sorry state. India, Isreal, and the entire world is plotting our down fall.
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