Helping Pakistan: Pakistan’s troubles demand unity
Pakistan is rising rapidly up the global risk register. The hopes generated by 
the elections of February 18, when Pakistanis rejected religious extremists' 
parties, are evaporating. The country, a nuclear power, and its 165m people are 
beset by a deepening political and economic crisis, of which yesterday's riot 
at the stock exchange is but a small manifestation. Yet elected politicians 
seem unwilling or unable to do anything about it.
In some respects, the politicians have been unlucky. It is not their fault that 
they took over the reins of power just as global food and energy prices were 
exploding. Subsidies on fuel and food - increased by General Pervez Musharraf, 
the country's military ruler - made matters worse, forcing the government to 
choose between two unpalatable alternatives, letting prices rip or watching 
government finances spiral out of control. At the moment, they have the worst 
of all worlds: inflation of 12 per cent and accelerating, and a budget deficit 
already equal to 7 per cent of gross domestic product.
It would be serious enough if this were the only issue the government has to 
confront. But developments in Pakistan's lawless tribal areas bordering 
Afghanistan are heightening tensions with its neighbours, and preoccupying the 
US and its Nato partners. Pakistan's army appears to have resumed confrontation 
with religious militants in these areas, but the extremists have taken 
advantage of recent ceasefires to launch bolder incursions into Afghanistan. 
These have already led to hot pursuit missions over the border into Pakistan, 
which, if they continue and intensify, can only strengthen religious extremists 
inside the country.
The outside world can help Pakistan with finance for development. Yet, the 
solutions really lie at home. There has been a worrying vacuum at the centre, 
which has meant that the government has hardly moved to address these gathering 
problems. The reason has been that the heads of the main political parties, 
Asif Ali Zardari and Nawaz Sharif, have failed to set aside their personal 
rivalries and thirst for power to govern together to help manage the crisis.
Fortunately, so far, the head of the army, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, has 
shown no desire to step in to "solve" the gathering problems.
Indeed, military government provides no real answer, as recent history shows. 
But unless the party leaders come together for the sake of their country, 
Pakistan's elected party leaders may find that the crisis consumes them too.
Editorial: The Financial Times Limited 2008
Published: July 18 2008 03:00 | Last updated: July 18 2008 03:00

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