The United States on Wednesday congratulated Shehbaz Sharif on becoming Pakistan’s new prime minister following the ouster of his predecessor in a parliamentary no-confidence vote, with the top U.S. diplomat reaffirming the “value” of the relationship between the two nations.
The warm tone of U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s statement appeared to signal a desire to repair ties damaged by former Prime Minister Imran Khan’s harsh anti-U.S. rhetoric and his unproven charges that Washington engineered his dismissal.
“Pakistan has been an important partner on wide-ranging mutual interests for nearly 75 years and we value our relationship,” Blinken said. “The United States congratulates newly elected Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and we look forward to continuing our long-standing cooperation.”
“The United States views a strong, prosperous, and democratic Pakistan as essential for the interests of both our countries,” he added.
Blinken’s statement came two days after the Western-friendly Sharif, 70, took the oath of office following days of political turmoil leading to Khan’s dismissal in Pakistan’s first no-confidence vote since gaining independence from Britain in 1947.
Khan, a former cricket star-turned politician, sought to derail the vote by dissolving Parliament and calling early elections after claiming that Washington was colluding with his opponents to oust him.
Khan, 69, provided no proof of his allegations, which the United States denied.
Pakistan’s highest court declared Khan’s actions unconstitutional and ordered the vote to proceed. A majority of Parliament’s lower house supported his ouster on Sunday.
Despite Blinken’s warm tone, analysts said they do not expect Washington to seek a significant broadening of ties, but to remain mostly focused on security cooperation, especially on counterterrorism and Afghanistan.
Analysts said they expected Sharif, the brother of three-time prime minister Nawaz Sharif, to be preoccupied with pressing domestic issues, especially trying to contain a serious economic crisis.