Several US lawmakers have questioned President Asif Ali Zardari's ability to control Pakistan with one of them comparing the country to a man whose pants are on fire but who does not realise the danger.
When one's pants are on fire one has to do two things to survive, said Democrat Gary Ackerman as a House panel on Tuesday questioned Richard Holbrooke, US special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan on America 's strategy for the troubled ally.
"First you have to realise your pants are on fire. Then you have to do something about it," he said. "Let me be blunt. Pakistan's pants are on fire... but they seem convinced that if left alone or attacked piecemeal, the Islamist flame will simply burn itself out. That hope is, at best, folly."
Even now with insurgents a mere hour's drive from the capital, Ackerman said he suspected that among the senior officers of the Pakistani military that "bedrock belief is still that Pakistan's real enemy is India remains untouched by events."
Holbrooke urged Ackerman and others to speak with Zardari about their concerns while he is in Washington suggesting that the US has overreacted to the situation in Pakistan "when statements of concern became predictions".
The US should try "to dispel a self-fulfilling sense of pants-on-fire syndrome. It is not a failed state. It is a state under extreme stress," said Holbrooke.
"Now he said the pants really are on fire, and I understand exactly what he (Ackerman) said. But I also think it needs to be put in the perspective of what we're trying to achieve," he said.
"Pakistan as such is of immense importance to the United States strategically and politically, that our goal must be unambiguously to support and help stabilise a democratic Pakistan headed by its elected president, Asif Ali Zardari," Holbrooke said.