Trump’s Reckless Tweets vs. Pakistan’s Democratic Hopes
Pakistan’s slow progress toward developing a stable and inclusive political system faced new challenges in the second half of 2017, and the US president's recent tweets could make matters worse. If Pakistan continues to falter in 2018, the consequences will be felt across South Asia and the broader Muslim world.
LAHORE – Pakistan has now joined the ranks of countries hit by one of US President Donald Trump’s characteristic tweet storms. In his first tweet of 2018, Trump declared that the United States has “foolishly” given Pakistan more than $33 billion in aid over the last 15 years, while Pakistan had returned only “lies and deceit” and given safe haven to the terrorists America hunts in Afghanistan. “No more!” Trump concluded. And now the US is freezing its aid to the country.
Like his saber-rattling toward North Korea or his unilateral decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, Trump’s attacks on Pakistan may play well with his base. But it will also have serious repercussions for Pakistan, where a number of shocks in the second half of 2017 have destabilized the country politically. And if Pakistan stumbles, the consequences will be felt across South Asia and in other parts of the Muslim world, where a functioning political system in Pakistan could serve as a valuable model.
The roughly 50 Muslim-majority countries stretching from Bangladesh to Morocco have largely struggled to develop politically. Under President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s leadership, Turkey, which once boasted a functioning democratic system, has been slipping toward authoritarian rule. Bangladesh, too, seems to be turning into a one-party system, after having made notable headway, particularly on the economic front. Now Pakistan – in a sense, the region’s best remaining hope – is also facing potentially disruptive setbacks.