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Sharif visit will do little for democracy in Pak: Expert

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Washington: Democracy in Pakistan has grown increasingly imperiled with no semblance of a civil-military balance, and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s Washington visit will do little to advance its cause in that country, an eminent US expert has said.

With security issues likely to dominate Sharif’s meeting with US President Barack Obama during his four-day trip, Michael Kugelman of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, a top American think tank, said such a visit is only expected to further bolster the Pakistan military, which has increased its grip on power.

“This week’s visit, like most high-level official visits involving the United States and Pakistan, will be about security. And that means more engagement with – and a further bolstering of – the Pakistani military,” Kugelman wrote in an op-ed in ‘Foreign Policy’ magazine.

“In so doing, US policy, despite its best efforts to strengthen democracy, invariably helps ensure that there will continue to be an essential institution in Pakistan that enjoys unchecked power,” the South Asia expert said.

Describing the idea of any semblance of a civil-military balance in Pakistan as a “sham”, he said US policy helps widen the divide.

Sharif’s visit to Washington will do little to advance the cause of democracy in Pakistan, Kugelman said, adding that at the end of the day, when Washington needs to get something done to serve its chief interests in Pakistan, one can assume it goes to the generals and not the civilians.

“This is incredibly ironic and misguided – given that the generals imperil US interests in the region with their sponsorship of non-state militants – but nonetheless a fact of life for US-Pakistan relations,” he wrote.

“This is why we shouldn’t expect many substantive outcomes from Obama’s meeting with Sharif. The key agenda items – counterterrorism cooperation, nuclear security, the Afghanistan peace process with the Taliban – are matters over which the military, not the premier, hold sway and have the final say,” the American expert said.

Sharif, who arrived in the US yesterday, is scheduled to meet President Barack Obama at the White House tomorrow.

In addition to his meeting with Obama, Sharif is scheduled to meet Secretary of State John Kerry, and other senior officials of the administration.

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