Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Yasser Latif Hamdani on Obama-Romney Election Race; A Pakistani Perspective

I was asked a few questions earlier by a correspondent of Dawn.com. This being the election morning in the US, I am sharing my responses here:

 1.Why do you think the US election is important for Pakistan?

The US election is important for a very fundamental reason; a reason that is often ignored by our opinion makers in this country. There is a complete variance in how the Democrats and the Republicans approach Pakistan. Having long conflated the interest
s of the "deep state" with those of Pakistan as a country and its people, we seem to think that Republicans are better for Pakistan. However it is the Democrats who are for a more broad-based engagement with Pakistan in terms of cooperation on a strategic level underscoring long term common interests. 

2. Which candidate do you think serves Pakistan's interests better or vice versa?

President Obama unquestionably. There is an impression in Pakistan that Republicans have somehow been more beneficial for Pakistan but this is historically untenable. Democrat Presidents since the middle of last century, Truman, Kennedy, Johnson, Carter and Clinton all have proved to be better more or less than their Republican counterparts when it comes to policy towards Pakistan. Indeed Pakistan's closest ties with the US during the cold war were forged under Democrat administrations. Of course Nixon was a Republican who was close to Pakistan but he had his reasons - one primary reason being the opening of Communist China in which Pakistan was instrumental. The key republican leader of the late 20th century, President Reagan was a friend only to General Zia - not Pakistan. All things equal, Republicans are more likely to forge alliances with the deep state and dictators like General Zia, whereas Democrats have been closer to the civilian leadership and institutions of Pakistan. 

It must be stated however that Pakistan needs to put its own house in order. If it does so, it will be a sought after friend. Otherwise it will be a liability which is what both candidates consider it to be. 

3. Do you personally prefer any candidate and why?

Personally I prefer President Obama. He is essentially someone who has seen adversity and made his own world through hard work, brilliance and of course his brilliant wife. President Romney comes from a tradition of family money and connections. His father also ran for president though he was defeated in the primaries. In many ways this is the Nixon v Kennedy issue in reverse. Nixon, like President Obama, was a self made man, a lawyer and a person who could rightly be proud of his achievements. Kennedy, a great man no doubt, was born with a silver - nay golden- spoon and by a quirk of fate- demise of his elder brother- had been pushed into politics. Nixon was a much better president notwithstanding the water gate scandal because he rose from the ranks. Obama is like that. 

4. Who do you think will win the election and why? 

This is a tough one. It is a very close race. However President Obama will come out on top in my opinion for two reasons. 1. Romney needs to win more swing states than Obama to make it to the White House. 2. Romney is presiding over a ragtag coalition of free market capitalists and right wing religious nuts. The right wing religious nuts however are not too thrilled with the fact that Romney is a Mormon. There is a general Christian prejudice against the Church of Latter Day Saints of Jesus Christ. So I feel - though I might be wrong- that the religious right in America will be less than enthused to vote for Romney.

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