Which US presidential candidate will be good for Pakistan?

Published: January 5, 2016

Not one of these potential presidents would be friends of or partial towards Pakistan, they would only be interested partners whom Pakistan has to evaluate and deal with in its own best interest.

While the US presidential nomination circus is going on in full swing, people back in Pakistan ought to wonder who the best man or woman would be for Pakistan. Let us be very honest, Pakistan does not figure very prominently on the radar of most of these presidential candidates. However, the fate of these presidential elections is very important to Pakistan.

The amount of aid we receive to the approval of our ever growing nuclear program and the continuous supply of and upgrades to our military hardware depends very much on the man or woman at the oval office.

On the Republican side, there are a total of 12 candidates, half of whom know nothing about Pakistan. The Democratic side is paltry, made up of only three candidates. While discourse in Pakistan is saturated with Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, many of us have not really considered the efficacy of other candidates.

I’m here to rectify that. Let’s explore which candidates would work in Pakistan’s favour.

Photo: Reuters

I believe that the best choice for us would be Senator Marco Rubio, from the Republican side. Hear me out before you start shaking your head.

I know that Rubio hasn’t really won the hearts of Pakistanis by saying that he would like to have a beer with with Malala Yousafzai when he was asked which political figure he would like to informally meet over a drink. But the fact is that he is the only one who has visited Pakistan and Afghanistan, besides Hillary Clinton, during his time as senator. He met with Ashfaq Parvez Kayani who was the Chief of Army Staff at the time. This indicates that he is more familiar with the political climate of the country than his counterparts. In addition to that, he is one of the few American politicians who can pronounce ‘Pakistan’ right!

Besides Rubio, there are three other candidates that could prove useful to Pakistan.

Photo: Reuters

John Ellis Bush (Jeb Bush), the 43rd Governor of Florida, is also one of the better choices. He is touted as the smarter of the Bush brothers, which is honestly not much of a compliment to the man. Jeb once opined that the US should provide support, such as trade concessions, rather than give aid to countries like Pakistan because giving aid “never wins friends”. This illustrates that he would be a shrewd leader and would make decisions that would benefit in the long term.

Photo: AP

Jim Gilmore, the 68th Governor of Virginia, is also considerably knowledgeable about Pakistan, and thus would be quite a decent choice.

Photo: Reuters

Senator Rick Santorum could also be favourable for us. He once censured Texas Governor Rick Perry for being too hostile towards Pakistan, saying that “allies work through their problems”.

While there are candidates who could be good for Pakistan’s future, there are some who could prove quite hazardous for us.

Photo: Reuters

Let’s hope that Ted Cruz never sees a day in office. The Republican first time senator, is a particularly strong candidate, but he is belligerent when it comes to dealing with issues and non-Americans. He will not be gentle with Pakistan. Another hardliner is Rand Paul. The Kentucky Republican lawmaker said last year that all aid to Pakistan should be cut off because it persecutes Christians and women, giving the examples of Asia Bibi and Malala Yousafzai.

Photo: Reuters

The Republican front runner so far is of course the grandiloquent Donald J Trump. His views about Pakistan, as expected, are not very positive. Donald Trump is quoted to have said that Pakistan is not a real friend and believes that the US should use India as a checkmate to Pakistan.

Photo: Reuters

Chris Christie, the 55th Governor of New Jersey, one of the bigger boned of the Republican contestants, is unfamiliar with Pakistan beyond the usual news headlines, yet his website credits him with obtaining an indictment against the kidnapper of Daniel Pearl, disregarding the fact that the trial took place in Pakistan.

Ben Carson, the only African American in the whole race, and Carly Fiorina, the only woman on the Republican side, have too sparse a knowledge of Pakistan to merit a real mention. John Kasich, the 69th Governor of Ohio, and Mike Huckabee, the 44th Governor of Arkansas, too, can be similarly dismissed, as can Martin O’ Malley, the 61st Governor of Maryland, a Democratic presidential candidate.

Bernie Sanders.
Photo: Reuters

There are two other democratic candidates. Senator Bernie Sanders may seem like a pacifist liberal of yore, but he would not be in any hurry to end Barack Obama’s drone program in Waziristan if elected.

Photo: Reuters

The erstwhile Secretary of the State Hillary Clinton knows Pakistan as well as any non-Pakistani can expect to.

Despite this, I believe that Hillary Clinton is very cynical about Pakistan. She understands Pakistan, sympathises with the people, yet is very doubtful of the military regime. She essentially distrusts the Pakistani establishment. Thus, her policy towards Pakistan would be more aggressive than Obama’s, notwithstanding her genuine concern for the stability and prosperity of Pakistan.

All said and done, no matter who comes to power in the United States, Pakistan has to fend for itself. Not one of these potential presidents would be friends of or partial towards Pakistan, they would only be interested partners whom Pakistan has to evaluate and deal with in its own best interest. However, it would be much easier to deal with the right man or woman.

Shajeel Zaidi

Shajeel Zaidi

The author is a cynical patriot studying finance at NYU Stern, whose fascination with Pakistani history and politics knows no bounds. He tweets as @shajboi (twitter.com/shajboi)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Parvez

    Simple answer : NONE……..and the fault won’t be theirs.Recommend

  • Syed Muhammad Kumail

    A very well-rounded article giving a fair analysis of the presidential race. “Interested partners whom Pakistan has to evaluate and deal with in its own best interest,” is precisely what Pakistan should have been doing since day 1. Couldn’t agree more. Recommend

  • Russab Ali

    Great analysis. I agree with the majority of your points, including Marco Rubio being the best choice. Overall it’s great you looked over each candidate, something Pakistani media has clearly ignored. Recommend

  • Daniyal Masood

    Brilliantly written! Was hooked from the very first sentence. Pretty accurate as well. Well done!Recommend

  • Singh

    Trump will trump everyone in race. will vote him this time.Recommend

  • IndianDude

    Q: Which US president will be good for Pakistan?
    A: The president that will be bad for the American public.Recommend

  • Junaid

    On the whole, Pakistanis shouldn’t be worried which president would be good for Pakistan. What we should be hoping for is for someone to get elected with whom Pakistan has already established a smooth working relationship, even if it’s someone we don’t like or someone who doesn’t like us. That’s why a Democrat getting elected would be better for this country. In any case, someone more knowledgeable about Pakistan would be better for this country (even if it’s a hardliner) than someone who understands no foreign policy and sells his politics by acting tough, like these Republicans.Recommend

  • Jayman

    Osama turning up in Pakistan was the turning point for US-Pak relations. Now it hardly matters who the next president is. You can be pretty sure he/she won’t be too enamoured with Pakistan.Recommend

  • Headstrong

    I don’t quite get the comments here complimenting this article. This is just click bait with no meaningful analysis at all! Dismissing candidates because they are “belligerent” or have “sparse knowledge of Pakistan” is nonsensical! Similarly, endorsing somebody because they’ve visited Pakistan (once) or because he’s “smart” is inane.
    Would it have been too much to expect this writer to do some research on the policies of the candidates – at least the major one?Recommend

  • Swaadhin

    When I read some of the stuff written by the Pakistanis, it makes me believe Pakistanis give themselves much more credit than they deserve. They seem to seriously think they are the centre of gravity in international politics whereas the truth is Pakistan is considered the centre of gravity of international terrorism.

    Pakistan will remain important for any American president in the foreseeable future, the question is does it really suit Pakistan to be in the limelight for the reasons it has been in the last two decades.Recommend

  • curious2

    Author seems to believe that candidates knowledge of Pakistan is something that is a plus for Pakistan … but I would point out that Obama and Clinton have significant knowledge of Pakistan and both have a poor opinion of Pakistan.Recommend

  • Noman Farooqi

    You need to reread and reanalyze Rand Paul. He is one of the fine candidate who will be good not only for USA but for rest of the world.Recommend

  • Rex Minor

    He met with Ashfaq Parvez Kayani who was the Chief of Army Staff at the
    time. This indicates that he is more familiar with the political climate
    of the country than his counterparts.
    Not bad, the criterion used by the author being the familiarity with the political climate of the country through the army chief of staff. Those who represent Pakistan abroad have proven more than once that they are not a reliable ally nor a serious enemy.

    Rex MinorRecommend

  • Rex Minor

    the truth is Pakistan is considered the centre of gravityevenge of international terrorism.

    Because its political and military leadership claims to be the one; their military drop bombs on its citizens and conduct military operations in the dwellings here people live and claim to be killing the extremists for acolateral damages and displacing millions without allowing a single independ the ent journalist verification and people in the media jostle about the news but squawk when the rnge attack is followed. This makes Pakistan asnuine victim of terrorism.

    Rex MinorRecommend

  • Wizarat

    Shajeel,

    My suggestion to you would be to first find a Pakistani President/Prime Minister who would be good for Pakistan and then discuss other country’s leaders. Once you have someone who actually feels pain for Pakistan he/she would make sure that the other leaders would be good for Pakistan regardless of their party affiliations and platforms.

    Good luck!Recommend

  • Rohan

    Self bloated view bordering grandeur delusionsRecommend

  • Rohan

    Anybody who gives billions of dollars of aid to Pakistan and looks the other way regarding sponsorship of terrorism will be goodRecommend

  • mindset

    It is delightful to see the number of negative comments from india on any given Pakistani post :)Recommend

  • Ofcourse. Pakistan has a right to contemplate which American candidate will improve bilateral relations as does any other nation, however this causes Indians who dislike this anti-terror alliance to go into spastic fits…Recommend

  • This is a Pakistani site. Ofcourse we will look after our interest. As for your ” gravity of international terrorism” taunts, India is not known as the rape capital of the world for no reason. Besides the gravity has shifted to Syria/Iraq.

    Hopefully Pakistan-America relations will continue to prosper as well as irk Indians for many years to come as they have in the past…Recommend

  • Time Is Up

    Indians are just too damn critical. Let us prove them wrong :-)Recommend

  • Swaadhin

    “Hopefully Pakistan-America relations will continue to prosper as well as irk Indians for many years to come as they have in the past…”

    I am afraid, I would not really take so much pride in India’s relationship with a foreign country, India has always made its friends keeping in mind its interests, name another country which has as formidable a relationship as India does with Iran, Israel, Russia, KSA and US along with a very stable relationship with China.

    It’s called realpolitik which makes India give up on its relationship with Russia a little bit to be closer to US than ever before. This is just the need of the hour unlike some other countries which need a new godfather every decade or so.

    “As for your ” gravity of international terrorism” taunts, India is not known as the rape capital of the world for no reason.”

    I would have thought you would come up with a better rebuttal, the very fact that you had to rebut my comment with rapes in India shows how isolated your country is when it comes to the issue of terrorism.

    “Besides the gravity has shifted to Syria/Iraq.”

    It has not shifted, it has just joined the league which Pakistan has been a part of for very long.Recommend

  • M

    Hope you have received your papers by now. Because Germany,
    no longer wants Afghans, pretending to be Paks, in Deutschland.
    Specially those from FATA, travelling on Pak passports. Hope your
    German vocabulary is better than your English. If not, You can
    always try Saudia. They accept pseudo Afghans.
    Also, the nearly 4 million Afghans in Pakistan, are being sent back.
    Karzai, Double Abdullah, Ghani, and Hekmatyar will welcome with open arms.Recommend

  • “how isolated your country is”
    India has been crying over this issue for years if not decades now, trying to isolate Pakistan only to repeatedly fail, something even Modi has had to finally admit… The world stands with Pakistan against the issue of terrorism. I don’t know what world you live in… some isolation this is…

    “I am afraid, I would not really take so much pride in India’s relationship with a foreign country,”
    I was just talking about US/Pakistan relations. No need to pride yourself over your country’s fencesitting…

    ” it has just joined the league which Pakistan”
    Pakistan controls it’s territory unlike Syria/ Iraq and has launched a decisive operation against terrorists… You try to paint everything so bleak and are unable to look at things with an unbiased view, something some Indians have done since 1947.

    Plus I don’t think you understand what a “centre of gravity” is…

    India is part of the center of terrorism too if you count Kashmir (as well as Assam)… and no it has more to do with human rights violations in IOK rather than pure Pakistani involvement. People do not rise up for no reason.

    “I would have thought you would come up with a better rebuttal”

    I do not have much to say to a person who views Pakistan as well as Muslims in general as a threat to their entire being, community and nation to the point of paranoia.Recommend

  • Swaadhin

    “The world stands with Pakistan against the issue of terrorism.”

    A country which has nuclear weapons, was home to the most wanted man in the world for atleast 5 years and makes news for its nationals being involved in almost every terrorist act committed in the world cannot be described better than how a former secretary of state of US did when she called Pakistan an international migraine. You might take it as a matter of pride but most countries in the world would not want to be engaged for the reasons your country is being engaged.

    Fence sitters are friends with both your present financiers/friends and the former ones but on different terms of course.

    “India is part of the center of terrorism too if you count Kashmir (as well as Assam)…”

    That’s funny mate, four things:

    1. India does not fund and equip the terrorists who are fighting the Indian state whether it is in the naxal belt or the north east.

    2. We also don’t send them across borders to kill innocents and claim we have nothing to dow with it.

    3. India does not blame Pakistan for the Naxals killing our para military.

    4. None of the countries blame India for sending mercenaries to their countries except Pakistan, can you claim the same?

    “……community and nation to the point of paranoia.”

    Woww.. the entire world is using this adjective, paranoid to describe Pakistan and you want me to believe otherwise, btw what happened to the rape taunt?Recommend

  • Rex Minor

    You sir, are obsessed wth Indians and Afghans, we have a saying that one should better clear up the mess in ones home before pointing out others front. It is Pakistan Government which is refusing to take back pakis stranded on the shores of the European soil! .It is very natural that People are leaving the war torned territories. Yes, “we can” is the slogan alone voiced by the German Chancellor, taking more than one million asylum seekers in 2015. All those arriving from safe countries are being returned to their countries including Afghanistan and Pakistan. No hard feelings Sir, if you happen to be one of the rejects.

    Rex MinorRecommend

  • Rex Minor

    There never was Sheikh Osama turning up in Pakistan, who it would seem had died years before and to the knowledge of now retired General Parvez! The army played dumb and went along with the American show and did not intervene.

    Rex MinorRecommend

  • Rex Minor

    Trump will trump everyone in race. will vote him this time.

    Not too fast. Let us wait till the medical reports on the short listed candidates are out, which the author did not provide. Senator Maccain was a looser last time with one hundered page report.

    Rex MinorRecommend

  • “former secretary of state of US”
    You do realize that times change right? How long ago was this statement passed again which you cling to?… People in the Bush regime who commented on issues like Iraq are hardly taken seriously anymore looking at the situation on the ground.

    “India does not fund and equip the terrorists”
    India has made mass graves of many innocent Kashmiris. Why arm militias at all when the Indian army can commit human rights violations unopposed in a virtual police state? In this case who are the terrorists?

    In any case this does not change the fact that terrorism occurs in India within it’s own borders and due to its own actions. How do your points deflect this fact?

    “btw what happened to the rape taunt?”
    What’s more to be said? I only stated a fact and can quote people claiming it too. You can go on if you want with old buzzwords like “international migraine”, but don’t get offended when we return the favour.

    “”……community and nation to the point of paranoia.””
    When you
    think some Muslim rulers are your “tormentors” who you have been made to
    love and that imaginary bias’ have been entered into history by scheming historians, I’m
    afraid there is no other word to describe this other than as a heavy
    persecution complex.

    I’m talking about you, not India here.

    Coming back to the topic India’s relations with other countries are all for naught if all it takes is for Pakistan to have good relations with other countries for you to start steaming.

    “the world would not want to be engaged ”
    This is up to the world to decide not for Indians. As much as you’d like, you can only pretend to speak on behalf of the world.

    Your obsession with isolating Pakistan has failed time and time again and will probably continue to do so in the future too if you continue.Recommend

  • Jayman

    I don’t think anybody is too fussed whether Pakistan believes it or not. The people who matter is what counts.Recommend

  • LS

    With China milking you with high interest rates.. remind me which country is in Pakistan’s “friend” list if anything like that really exists?Recommend

  • Jayman

    The world thinks Pak conducts terrorist attacks within their own country to garner sympathy.Recommend

  • You do realize that you are only proving my point regarding an obsession.

    India has made more comments about CPEC and Pak-China relations (plus US-Pakistan relations as this blog itself shows) than both stakeholders have themselves.Recommend

  • LS

    It is a shallow argument to say that commenting shows obsession. At least this conversation here is civil. To go TOI and see how your brethren comment there… Absolute low class junk.

    I did not talk about CPEC but it is Pakistanis who constantly talk about India talking about CPEC. You know like a 2 year old who keeps repeating the same thing over and over again when an adult says something once … that is Pakistan for you… BTW: Why should India not talk about it? After all it is a disputed territory.. isn’t it?Recommend

  • “After all it is a disputed territory”

    Something which you conveniently forget when Dams and other projects in IOK are brought up…

    What you say is contradictory. On one hand you say India is not talking about CPEC (Pakistan is), but on the other hand you say it is talking about it but is justified by Gilgit being disputed territory. Which is it? You can just google to see how many times Indians have brought it up. You probably already have since you brought up TOI.

    The rest of your analogy is pointless. Calling some-else childish is a sure sign of immaturity and lack of arguments.Recommend