Feb 28, 2009

Pakistan in ‘mortal danger’: NYT

‘Between the threats from extremists, an unraveling economy, battling civilian leaders and tensions with its nuclear rival India, Pakistan is edging ever closer to the abyss,’ the New York Times said Saturday.
In a lead editorial the newspaper asks President Asif Ali Zardari and the leader of Pakistan Muslim League (N) Nawaz Sharif ‘to find a way to work together’ saying ‘their country is in mortal danger’ and they need ‘to save it.’
The Times recalled ‘when Mr Zardari became president, he pledged to unite the country’ but noted ‘he has not’.
‘We don’t know if Mr Zardari orchestrated this ruling, as Nawaz Sharif and many others have charged. (The government actually argued Mr Sharif’s side in the case, which stems from an earlier politically motivated criminal conviction.) We do know the danger of letting this situation get out of control.’
It also notes ‘like Mr Zardari, Mr Sharif is a flawed leader and no doubt is manipulating the combustible court ruling for personal political gain.’
It underscored that ‘for Pakistan’s democracy to survive, a robust opposition must be allowed to flourish and participate peacefully in the country’s political life. That includes finding a way for Mr Sharif to run for office.’
The newspaper asserts ‘Pakistan must get serious about tackling its problems, including the fight against al Qaeda and the Taliban. Mr Zardari, whose wife, Benazir Bhutto, was assassinated by extremists, seems to understand.’
However, the newspaper laments ‘unfortunately, the powerful chief of the Pakistani Army, Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, still seems far more focused on the potential threat of India than the clear and present danger of the extremists. He is said to have supported the recent deal in which the government effectively ceded the Swat Valley — in the border region but just 100 miles from Islamabad— to militants in a misguided bid for a false peace.’
‘Pakistanis need to understand that this is their fight, not just America’s. We hope top American officials delivered that message loudly and clearly when General Kayani visited Washington this week’, the Times said.
The Times points out in a report this week, The Atlantic Council warned that Pakistan’s stability is imperiled and that the time to change course is fast running out. That would be quite enough for any government to deal with.

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