A dangerous void in Pakistan ?

COMMENT: A dangerous void in Pakistan — Ahmed Rashid
Daily Times, March 8, 2009

The crisis in Pakistan leaves the US with few policy options. Large injections of cash are desperately needed to give the government the time to re-establish the writ of the state and revive the moribund economy. Yet the real issue which Obama certainly cannot address is the lack of leadership in a country that teeters on the edge of chaos

Just as the Obama administration tries to get a handle on Pakistan — a critical part of its regional approach to sorting out Afghanistan and defeating the Taliban — the country takes another spiral downwards, virtually negating options Washington considered before.

Almost in a mirror image of the financial crisis that galloped ahead of the solutions that governments devised, the situation in Pakistan deteriorates at a pace faster than policymakers can grasp. Most worrisome in the developing crisis is the leadership void in Pakistan, without which talk of any solution would be a fruitless exercise.

The governmental weakness was demonstrated dramatically recently while Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi took part in a crucial trilateral meeting in Washington with the US and Afghanistan, back home the government virtually ceded control of part of the country to the Taliban. The meeting was designed to input policy options before Richard Holbrooke, the US Special Envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan which President Barack Obama is supposed to sell to NATO at its summit on April 2.

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