‘Zardari could face threat from army’

* International Institute for Strategic Studies report says president needs to resolve conflict between US pressure for attacks inside Pakistan and army’s opposition to such strikes

LONDON: One key challenge facing President Asif Ali Zardari will be to gain the trust of the army, a body which could ultimately threaten his government, a think-tank said on Thursday.

The International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) in its annual global geopolitical security review said Zardari must prioritise fighting militancy along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.

Launching the Strategic Survey 2008 report, IISS head John Chipman said, “Zardari’s major challenge will be to gain the trust of the army and build a consensus among the political establishment against terrorism and extremism.”

Conflict: In order to pursue the war on terror, Chipman told reporters, Zardari needs to balance conflicting interests of growing United States pressure on Islamabad for military strikes in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) with the Pakistan army’s decreasing tolerance for such attacks.

The IISS head said Zardari also needed to work with major opposition parties to reduce public opposition to US incursions into FATA.

“Most importantly, President Zardari will need to ensure that the ensuing domestic political turbulence, heightened by the growing economic crisis, does not place his own government at risk from the army.”

Chipman added, “The Pakistani army remains unable or unwilling to counter effectively the resurgent Taliban with over 110,000 troops deployed in FATA.”

The US has accused Islamabad of doing too little to prevent the Taliban and other militant groups from recruiting, training and re-supplying in FATA. Tensions between Washington and Islamabad escalated following the September 3 US ground attack in the town of Angoor Ada, in which 15 civilians including women and children were killed. afp

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