Why Some Pakistanis Will Miss Trump

For many living in Pakistan, Trump’s administration will be remembered as a respite from drone strikes, and from the war in Afghanistan.

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Donald J. Trump and Melania Trump pose for a photo with the Prime Minister of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan Imran Khan Monday, July 22, 2019, in the Oval Office of the White House. (Official White House Photo by Andrea Hanks, via Wikimedia Commons)

Michaela Stone Cross


January 19, 2021

You can practically feel it: all across the world, people are holding their breath, waiting for the nuclear codes to be handed over to President-elect Joe Biden, and taken away from Donald Trump. With Biden comes a return to the Obama legacy, one many associate with stability and technocratic competence. There are exceptions, however: Pakistan, America’s long-standing frenemy, enjoyed better relations during the last four years, as tensions eased, the drone program slowed to a trickle, and an optics-heavy bromance bloomed between Trump and Prime Minister Imran Khan. 

“I am not a big fan of Obama,” said Nasar Ahmad, a 36-year-old lawyer from Lahore. “I think his suits are much nicer. He's got the Harvard finesse of course...But if it comes down to policy, and if it comes down to who did less damage to Pakistan, I'd say Trump, he probably did less damage. Biden is not Obama and he’s coming into a very different climate. But there are concerns that there might be more of the same-old-same-old.”

American-Pakistani relations have rarely been good, with polls showing that the citizens of both countries share a mutual distrust. But after a drone-happy Obama administration, it’s understandable why Trump may have been a breath of fresh air for many Pakistanis — while Trump escalated drone warfare in countries like Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, and Somalia, in Pakistan, there were only six confirmed strikes over the last four years, a 16-year low. In Pakistan, people often prefer Republican administrations to Democratic ones, and Trump’s efforts to begin peace negotiations in Afghanistan and his offer to broker a deal between Pakistan and India over Kashmir struck a chord with many. Biden, meanwhile, has picked Avril D. Haines as his director of national intelligence — the architect of Obama’s drone program, and a reminder of the height of airstrikes in northwest Pakistan.

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