Pakistan president-elect Asif Ali Zardari takes charge on Tuesday in the building where his predecessor Pervez Musharraf called the shots for almost nine years. Yet, some of the challenges that Zardari faces are not different from those that led to intense public dislike of Musharraf toward the end of his rule.
A PPP supporter makes victory sign in front of the portrait of Zardari after the presidential election at the Parliament in Islamabad on Sept. 6, 2008.
As many as five missile attacks and a ground raid on suspected Al Qaeda hideouts in Pakistan's border regions within a week have left dozens of tribesmen dead including several women and children. Pakistan's army also claims to have killed close to 600 militants in the Bajaur region in the last two weeks. While these attacks, mostly by US forces based in Afghanistan, continue to add to people's anger, they are also causing a massive reaction by militants. One suicide attack near Peshawar over the weekend took at least 35 lives.
Analyst Rashid Rehman says this represents the biggest challenge to the new president and his political allies both in and outside the country: “Our own army is now engaged on the ground, and the Americans should better take note of that and respect our sovereignty.”
US extends support
And as the US hunt for Al Qaeda activists hiding in Pakistan intensifies, Americans hope the new government will cooperate. Kay Anske, the chief US diplomat in the port city of Karachi, says her government is looking forward to working with President Zardari and his government.
“Pakistani people choose who they would like to be their president and in this particular case Zardari has been chosen and we look forward to work with him.”
Lawmaker Palwasha Behram is a member of Zardari's Pakistan Peoples Party. She says political and economic challenges currently facing the country require national consensus.
“I personally feel that there should be a broader consensus on issues such as economic slide, be it foreign aggression on our borders. Every political party should be taken into confidence on each of these issues.”
Most analysts believe that the US administration has played a significant role in the shaping of Pakistan's current political scenario. That is why they hope that direct US economic support in the current crisis will be provided to help the government ward off the challenge mounted by the militants.