Sharif's ouster could trigger US sanction against Pak: report

Sharif's ouster could trigger US sanction against Pak: report

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's ouster through illegal means could trigger another round of democracy-related US sanctions against Pakistan, according to a report.

A congressional reported titled 'Pakistan Political Unrest' warns that "any overt military ouster" of Sharif "could trigger another round of democracy-related US sanctions on foreign assistance to Pakistan", the Dawn said today.

This could put "an indefinite halt to what has been one of the highest-priority American aid programmes since 9/11."

The report also warns that the ongoing political crisis could impact Pakistan's relations with India by increasing the powerful army's influence in foreign policies, the paper said.

The "Army's more openly direct control of Pakistan's foreign and security policies may, over time, shift Pakistan's approach towards Afghanistan further into a policy framework that seeks to counter Indian influence there," warns the report prepared by the Congressional Research Service (CRS).

The report notes that while the Sharif government does not face an imminent ouster, "many observers see the current unrest weakening Sharif".

It also represents "a setback to democratisation in a country that has suffered three outright military coups in its 67 years of independence".

The report informs US lawmakers that despite the protest, Pakistan is unlikely to change its foreign or security policies that are of interest to the United States.

The unrest could "present new challenges to the goal of improving India-Pakistan relations, and put a damper on hopes for effective regional cooperation and commerce in South Asia," said author Alan Kronstadt, CRS specialist in South Asian affairs.

"Whether Sharif sought out or merely acceded to the army's late August intervention as a facilitator between the government and the protesters, most analysts contend that because he has not demonstrated civilian control over domestic security he will be left in a weakened state," the report says.

CRS warns that the army's involvement could have negative implications for US efforts to strengthen Pakistan’s democratic governance institutions as well.

"Observers doubt, however, that the army would seek to take direct control of the government, not least as it is embroiled in offensive operations against Islamist militants in western tribal areas," the report says.

The army, however, might welcome "a soft coup in which popular support for the civilian government is reduced such that the army can take full control of foreign and security policies".

The report came in the wake of nearly a month-long protest by Tehreek-i-Insaf chief Imran Khan and Awami Tehreek head Tahir-ul Qadri demanding Sharif's ouster.

Khan wants Sharif's ouster over alleged rigging in last year's poll which his party lost, while Qadri wants to bring a revolution in the country.

Both the leaders are agitating since August 14. At least three people have been killed and over 550 injured during the protests.

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