James Forsyth James Forsyth

Pakistan, a problem without a solution?

The New York Times Magazine profile of Asif Ali Zardari, the president of Pakistan who is known by the nickname of Mr 10 percent, is a depressing reading. It leaves you with little doubt that Zadari is not the kind of effective leader that Pakistan needs now. Then, in its final paragraphs, it turns its attention to the most likely alternative to Zadari:

‘American officials, increasingly convinced both that Zardari is not the interlocutor they had hoped for and that his days in power may be numbered, have begun to pay more attention to Sharif, long considered dangerously close to Islamist forces. Leading PML-N officials say they have learned from past mistakes. They have learned, for example, to accept an independent media and an independent judiciary. It’s not clear if Sharif himself has profited from experience. In the course of a phone conversation last week, he passed up all opportunities for self-scrutiny and advocated a response to terrorism that combined dialogue with tribal elders and economic and social development; military force was apparently not part of the equation.’

As always with Pakistan, you are left all too aware of the problem but none the wiser as to what a solution might be. With the Taliban and other extremists having already put—by some estimates—half of the country beyond the authority of the state, the time to come up with a solution is running short.

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