Congratulations to Asif Ali Zardari who will be sworn in as Pakistan’s president on Tuesday. But you have to wonder why he wants the job?
The next president is going to be squeezed between the increasingly impatient Americans and the threat of domestic terrorism. Both problems have been on display over the past week. The Americans have launched two separate incursions into the Pakistani tribal areas. With the Afghan war going badly and a presidential election underway, the US may be increasingly tempted to get involved in military action on Pakistani soil. That will inevitably cause a backlash that President Zardari will have to cope with.
Meanwhile, domestic terrorism and militancy remains a big threat – witness the suicide bombing that killed 35 people in Peshawar this week. The threat in Pakistan is often misunderstood in the west. The prospect of an Islamist takeover of the central government is remote. The real threat is that more and more of the country will become ungovernable. The tribal areas are already out of control. And Peshawar – a mere three hours drive from the capital – is increasingly anarchic, isolated and dangerous.