Pages: 1 2
Taseer’s death is a setback for the U.S. in its effort to foster Pakistan’s secular faction, which the U.S. considers to be a key ally in the fight to stop Islamists along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border and who control affiliated Taliban networks in both countries. The U.S. has been pushing for cooperation from the Pakistani government in the War in Afghanistan, which is intimately dependent on the degree of power held by fundamentalist factions relative to reformers. A weakened secular party undermines the country’s ability to combat internal extremist elements.
Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mike Mullen was reportedly “hugely concerned” with the incident, but also expressed optimism that Pakistan would persevere. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton “strongly condemn[ed]” the action, but issued a relatively milquetoast response, probably to avoid inflaming delicate political circumstances in the country.
The continuance of a cooperative government is very much in question in light of the assassination. Political and economic instability in Pakistan in recent years has been a major impediment to U.S. objectives in Afghanistan. Taseer’s murder is projected to further stymie the Pakistan People’s Party government, which recently lost its majority after a key coalition partner (the Muttahida Qaumi Movement) rescinded its support.
The leading opposition party, the Pakistan Muslim League, has said it may issue a motion of non-confidence in the next 45 days if the government does not enact a number of measures, such as cutting spending and fighting corruption. The Obama administration opposes some of these measures because it believes Pakistan’s rich should be tapped to provide relief to the country’s poor, which the administration believes will deter them from becoming radicalized.
Malik Qadri, however, was certainly not one of Pakistan’s poor, untutored masses. Qadri’s actions underscore how pervasive Islamist forces in Pakistan are, even among those gainfully employed in high-level government positions. Indeed, the assassination has renewed fears of further jihadi infiltration throughout the government. This is to say nothing of the fear that covert elements could someday gain access to Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal, which a leaked U.S. Embassy cable publicized by WikiLeaks revealed was a live concern for the U.S. government. At the very least, the movement to repeal the country’s blasphemy laws had been dealt a serious blow and may not resume for quite some time.
“Show me another party where the leaders are being murdered, and why is that?” said a tearful Farahnaz Ispahani, presidential spokeswoman. “Because we are standing up for Quaid-i-Azam’s [secular] Pakistan, and against extremism and terrorism.” Isphani’s observation on the assassination resonates most of all. How a fundamentally humanistic coalition like the Pakistan People’s Party can overcome such barbaric opposition is deeply unclear.
Ryan Mauro contributed to this report.
Pages: 1 2