West has little option other than to support ‘fragile’ Zardari govt in Pak: WP

Friday, January 7, 2011

WASHINGTON - Under the prevailing circumstances in Pakistan, especially in the wake of liberal politician Salman Taseer’s assassination, the West has “little choice other than to try to support and strengthen” the Zardari government, an editorial in a US newspaper has said.

The Washington Post editorial said that while it was easy to “blame Pakistan’s deepening crisis on its feckless civilian government”, the assassination of one of Zardari’s chief allies, Punjab governor Salman Taseer, was a reminder that the country is engaged in a fateful civil war between democratic moderates and Muslim extremists- and that the current government is the most reliable liberal force.

It, however, noted that Zardari and his Pakistan People’s Party had been ineffectual in managing the country’s economy, slow in responding to disasters like last summer’s floods and unable to attack Taliban sanctuaries as the United States has been seeking for years.

Although the Obama administration has been a generous supporter, delivering billions in civilian and military aid to Pakistan, some of the civilian aid has been slowed by red tape, the editorial said, adding that the IMF demands that the government raise taxes had contributed to the collapse of its parliamentary coalition.

Therefore, even though Zardari’s government needs to implement economic reforms, sponsor development in areas where Islamic extremism breeds, and push the Army to go after the Taliban, “but for now, the priority should be its survival,” the editorial said.

It said that Richard Holbrooke, the veteran diplomat who served as a special policy coordinator in the region until his sudden death last month, recognized this truth.

Not long before his death, the envoy argued that although the US-Pakistan relationship was one of the most complex and difficult he had known in his long career, the United States had no choice but to keep working at it, said the editorial.

“People come up to me and say, we have got to tell the Pakistanis that they have got to do X, or else,” it quoted Holbrooke, as saying in an interview with PBS’s Margaret Warner.

“Well the correct answer is, ‘or else what?’ . . . We have different situations, and we have to reconcile them,” he added.

The editorial noted that this advice of Holbrooke is “worth remembering as the administration grapples with this crisis.” (ANI)

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