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Why Pakistan 'scares' Obama

February 09, 2009 14:51 IST

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On the eve of United States Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke's visit to the South Asia, Britain's The Guardian newspaper has said Pakistan is the greatest foreign policy challenge for the Barack Obama [Images] administration.

The newspaper quoting the US president's aides said Pakistan is the nation that really 'scares' him. The country is threatened by a growing Islamist insurgency, economic collapse and a crisis of governance as it struggles to establish democratic rule. The Obama administration, The Guardian says, believes Pakistan is key to its objectives of pacifying Afghanistan and going after Al Qaeda [Images].

Holbrooke told a news conference before flying to Islamabad [Images], 'There will be more focus on Pakistan. A new and fragile democracy has emerged but the situation requires attention and sympathy.'

The Guardian quoted leaks of a US military review, conducted under David H Petraeus, the American general in charge of the region, which say he has concluded that Pakistan, not Iraq, Afghanistan or Iran, is the most urgent foreign policy issue facing Obama.

Though democracy was restored last year but many believe the government is in a state of paralysis, the paper said. Government decision-making is concentrated in the hands of President Asif Zardari, creating a log-jam, critics say.

The Guardian also said the Zardari government has been unable to forge a political consensus on the fight against terrorism, with opinion divided between political parties, who favour military action against the extremists and those who want to negotiate, even within the ruling coalition.

As a result, no clear direction has been given to the army. In tandem with the security crisis, the economy, which was saved from bankruptcy late last year by an IMF loan, is plagued by inflation and a collapse in economic activity, The Guardian said.

The top priority for Washington, the newspaper says, will be getting Pakistan to take more concerted military action in the tribal territories. The Obama administration is promising more non-military aid, with a plan to triple social and economic assistance to $1.5 billion (about Rs 7,500 crore) a year.

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