Mar 19, 2009

A change in perception

The mood may be changing in Washington with respect to the government in Pakistan. In the US media there have been several reports that a re-think is on regarding Mian Nawaz Sharif. Till now, Washington's attitude towards the PML-N has been, at best, lukewarm. The US Senate has also been told by key figures in the upper house that aid to Pakistan will serve little purpose if it is not utilized effectively due to weak governance and continued turmoil. The US special envoy to Pakistan has also made it a point to emphasize that even after the restoration of judges, many problems remain. He has questioned too the ability of the government to tackle terrorism – the issue that remains the key focus for the US. We now know that the US secretary of state in a telephone talk with President Zardari exerted immense pressure to move towards a deal in the days before judges were restored. US officials also spoke with others in Islamabad – perhaps because they were not satisfied with the initial presidential response.These developments are significant. While Pakistan continues to deny any US role in domestic policy, we all know that the support from Washington can help bolster leaders. The current re-think we hear so much of comes at a time when in the US Senate there are calls for more aid to be extended to Pakistan to prevent the country spiralling into turmoil.Pakistan needs economic stability. But this can come only when its allies overseas and also people within the country have greater faith in the abilities of its leaders. The perception that governance is weak and ineffective, whether accurate or inaccurate, adds to our problems. The domination over decision-making by a small coterie and the failure to permit parliament a full role, contribute to these concerns. This is something we need to be aware of. More than anything else, Pakistan today needs committed and able leaders and it seems there is, in the aftermath of what happened on March 16, at least some loss of faith regarding

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