There’s a clear and present danger that the Taliban may capture the state of Pakistan, the country’s President Asif Ali Zardari has said in an interview to CBS news that will be broadcast on Sunday night.
“We are aware of the fact it’s…Taliban… trying to take over the state of Pakistan,” Zardari told the American television channel, raising fears about the ability of the nuclear-armed nation’s ability to resist a militant takeover.
<b1>Zardari’s comments are not without irony given that his wife, Benazir Bhutto, as prime minister in 1996, sanctioned the "export" of the Islamist Taliban to Afghanistan, and, in 1997, Pakistan became the first country to recognise the neighbouring Taliban regime.
The Pakistan President believed that the militant Taliban had been taken for granted for a long time. "It's been happening over time and it’s happened out of denial. Everybody was in denial.”
Zardari, paranoid about his own safety, has hardly stirred out of his presidential palace in Islamabad since becoming head of state in September. Most of his travels have been abroad. A new assessment by US intelligence raised questions about Pakistan’s inability to deal with the Taliban. “In 2008 Islamabad intensified counter-insurgency efforts, but Islamabad’s record in dealing with militants has been mixed,” it said.
Zardari said the Taliban had taken advantage of the country’s weaknesses. "…We have weaknesses and they are taking advantage of that weakness,” a seemingly helpless President stated. He asserted that Pakistan was not doing anybody a favour by fighting the Taliban. "So, we’re fighting for the survival of Pakistan. We’re not fighting for the survival of anyone else."
In an answer to critics who question how much power he actually wields in Pakistan vis-à-vis the all-powerful military, Zardari said they were all behind him. “If that wasn’t the case, then Islamabad would have fallen because obviously if the army doesn’t do its job, these men (jehadis) are not restricted…”