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Pakistan’s darkest hour- By DR FAROOQ HASSAN

It is emerging by the day with established facts that our president is losing rapidly in estimation where it counts. Zardari’s visit to the US badly hurt his image. The known and the unknown details of his visit have raised serious questions about his inherent capabilities. He spent over18 days abroad during his first month in office including two visits to London and three to Dubai all unofficial except for the one to the UN where, he should not have gone according to our system of governance where such conferences are attended by the PM. Foreign commentators freely described this as Pakistan’s bleakest moments’ in its turbulent history. With the foreign reserves just about the size of funds left to half a dozen members of this present government by Musharraf as his parting but unlawful gift, there is open talk of Islamabad defaulting on loan payments. The much touted Friends of Pakistan has become a group of bystanders without Saudi Arabia which is plainly unhappy with the incumbent regime.
About two weeks earlier strange stories had started to float around in the media concerning our president which indicated that: i) he would be more than obsequies to US wishes than Musharraf had been, and ii) that this unofficial visit to US patently remained unjustified as the premier had been to US on a similar visit barely three weeks earlier.
An unnamed presidential spokesman referred to the defamation of the president and asserted that it was “a malicious campaign initiated by some anti-democratic elements to tarnish the image of President Zardari.” Even more unintelligent was the reference to the stories which are basically indefensible. Indeed so well known are the facts of these “anecdotes” that to evaluate the correctness of such presidential exasperation it is not necessary to examine the substance of these matters. These anecdotes relate to Mr Zardari’s highly publicised personalised greetings Sarah Palin in New York.
Just as it was considered that we had a new democracy, ushering in a new civilian government, a new president and the end of many years of military rule, we are faced with the darkest hour in the country’s history. Potentially always considered as a failing state, the country could now be in a downward spiral towards becoming a failed state. On account of failed incoherent policies of the dictatorship of Musharraf Pakistan, stands internationally isolated and condemned by the world community due to its many perceived faults in advocating a sound foreign policy.
The country’s Afghan policy in the context of its tribal territories have become a free for all firing range for US and other nations troops and warriors even as the domestic threat from the Pakistani Taliban remains but as yet unknown of its extent. US incursions into Pakistan have been badly received within the country and the governments efforts to downplay their gravity exhibits a startling disregard of what lies ahead for Pakistan and the safety of its citizens. Pakistanis also face runaway inflation of around 30 percent, an economy in virtual standstill as foreign exchange reserves decrease and industry grinds to a halt. There is an alarming lack of electricity, an unresolved judicial crisis and ultimately an uncertain political future with the army still waiting in the wings and some influential voices already clamouring for General Kayani to do more.
The country is now described as an unsafe and insecure place where foreign missions are compelled to withdraw families of staff. As a country it is truly said to be on the edge of civil war. By indiscriminately bombing the tribal areas along the Afghan border, we in effect are going to war with Pakistan’s ethnic Pashtuns. They make up 15 percent of Pakistan’s 165 million people. They are well armed and among the most fierce people in the world. It is not beyond their military capabilities to cross the river Indus and take on Islamabad itself.
Balochistan is similarly seething with discontent since Bugti was assassinated by Musharraf. Before it is too late someone needs to give the president the bad news that Pakistan is merely a bridge too far in the War On Terror. But the worst possible political statement he made is his interview with the Wall Street Journal in which Zardari terms Kashmiri freedom fighters as terrorists. A group of Muslim protesters in Indian-administered Kashmir has defied a curfew to denounce the president.
The writer is a barrister-at-law (UK), attorney-at-law (US), senior advocate of the Supreme Court of Pakistan and professor at Harvard University

Source: The Nation, 31/10/2008

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