Pakistan's elections unlikely to affect relations with US

May 17, 2013

Presumptive Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, center, waves to supporters during an election campaign rally in Islamabad, Pakistan, Sunday, May 05, 2013.
Credit Anjum Naveed / Associated Press

Pakistan has reached a milestone for democracy. For the first time, the country has transferred power from one democratically elected government to another. Voters on Saturday rejected the incumbent party and picked the party led by former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

Sharif, widely expected to become the country's next prime minister, said he wants to improve relations with the United States. Ties between the U.S. and Pakistan took a hit in 2011, after a series of controversies led to a sense of mistrust among leaders in both countries. Among those is the use of U.S. drone strikes on Pakistani soil. The strikes are deeply unpopular among Pakistanis, and while on the campaign trail, Sharif called on the U.S. to end the program. With no indication the U.S. plans to do that in the near future, does this have the potential to derail any type of reconciliation between the two countries?

The outlook appears promising, according to two policy analysts. Speaking on Global Journalist, Michael Kugelman of the Wilson Center, and Marvin Weinbaum of the Middle East Institute both said there's reason to be hopeful under Sharif's leadership.

"Despite some of the rhetoric we heard on the campaign trail, [Nawaz Sharif] wants to work with the United States, and the United States wants to work with him," Kugelman said. "They've worked with each other before; I don't see why there'd be a problem now."

Sharif held the post of prime minister twice, until he was ousted by former military ruler Pervez Musharraf in a coup in 1999.

"By and large, I think the United States has to be pleased, even with the outcome," Weinbaum said. "Right now, it knows it will have someone who is a partner in Pakistan, and someone who can take responsibility for the problems that we are concerned about."

Weinbaum and Kugelman spoke with Global Journalist earlier this week. Listen to the episode or watch the video below.