Foreign diplomats concerned about political imbroglio


ISLAMABAD – The current political crisis in the country following the departure of MQM from the ruling coalition has left American and other foreign diplomats based in Islamabad deeply concerned. They fear it would distract the PPP government from the ongoing anti-terrorism efforts and also diminish further the chances of a military operation in North Waziristan.
“The diplomatic missions in Islamabad, especially those from the western nations including the US, are not only worried about the negative impact that the current political crisis will be having on Islamabad’s anti-terrorism efforts but they are also concerned about its effects on the government’s ability to revive the struggling economy,” a western diplomat based in Pakistani said.
He said the foreign missions of the US, the UK and other European nations were keenly monitoring the political crisis after the MQM announced quitting the federal cabinet a few days ago. However, MQM’s decision to sit on opposition benches on Sunday had generated profound concern among the diplomatic circles about the very survival of the government.
“If the PPP government, which is confronting such a grave political crisis coupled with serious economic problems, is able to sail through this storm and make it home safely, it will be a folly to expect a military operation in North Waziristan owing to a fractured political opinion and the lack of a much-needed backing for any such an offensive from various political parties,” the diplomat said.
He said the Pakistan Army was already reluctant to launch a new operation in North Waziristan because of being overstretched in other Tribal Areas and indulged deeply in flood-relief activities. “In such a political crisis, expectations of an offensive in North Waziristan will be asking for too much,” he said.
Another foreign diplomat said it was true that diplomatic missions were monitoring the evolving political situation in Pakistan with deep interest. “The diplomatic missions are keeping their capitals posted about the latest situation in Pakistan along with their takes on the vital issue. Some diplomatic missions have already shared their concerns with Pakistani authorities informally,” the diplomat said, declining to name such embassies or diplomats.
Pakistan coalition crisis internal matter: The US government regards Pakistan’s ruling coalition crisis as a strictly internal matter, a senior US official said on Monday. The political upheaval comes at a time when the Obama administration has increased pressure on Islamabad to go after militant groups to help the US turn around the faltering war effort in neighboring Afghanistan.
Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari earlier on Monday expressed full confidence in the country’s beleaguered prime minister, who is scrambling to prevent his government from falling after a key coalition partner quit. Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani’s government lost its majority in parliament on Sunday when the Muttahida Qaumi Movement bolted to the opposition due to government’s fuel price policies it said were “unbearable” for Pakistanis.
“We see this as an internal Pakistani political issue, and we do not think it would be appropriate for the US to comment,” the US official said when asked how concerned Washington was about the coalition crisis and whether it might affect the Obama administration’s Afghanistan-Pakistan strategy.