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Multiple crises send Pak to the brink

world Updated: Oct 26, 2008 10:32 IST

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Pakistan faces a "perfect storm" of crises, with its US-backed fight against al-Qaeda and the Taliban faltering and the country lurching towards bankruptcy, analysts and opposition figures say.

Dramatic developments over the past week on both the security and economic fronts underscored more clearly than ever the massive challenges facing the fragile government of the world's only nuclear-armed Islamic nation.

First the International Monetary Fund announced on Wednesday that Islamabad had sought a politically unpopular rescue package to give the country the four billion dollars it needs to avoid defaulting on its foreign debts.

Parliament meanwhile ended a historic two-week session by passing a unanimous resolution that called for an "urgent review" of Pakistan's role in the "war on terror" and for fresh talks with militant leaders.

"Pakistan is truly at a crossroads," Talat Masood, a leading security analyst and retired Pakistan army general, told AFP.

"If the economic situation continues to decline it will reinforce militancy and make it more difficult for the government to tackle. They need to do better than the past six or seven months," Masood said.

If local media dubbed the slaying of Benazir Bhutto as Pakistan's 9/11 and JFK rolled into one, the crisis now faced by President Asif Ali Zardari, her widower, is arguably even greater.

His government faces US pressure to crush militant safe havens in its tribal belt bordering Afghanistan, where Al-Qaeda and Taliban rebels have formed new alliances seven years after fleeing the US-led invasion of Afghanistan.

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani admitted the problems in a statement earlier this week, saying that the "very stability and survival of Pakistan is at stake.