As anger continues to mount in Pakistan over yesterday’s attack by US ground troops in South Waziristan, which reportedly killed 20 civilians, unnamed US officials have suggested that the raid was only the beginning of an increase in NATO operations in Pakistan’s tribal areas. Prescient, as it was reported today that a drone attack on the outskirts of Miramshah, a city along North Waziristan’s Afghan border, had killed at least six civilians and injured four others.
This latest attack comes just two days before Pakistani legislators are to elect the nation’s next president, expected to be Asif Ali Zardari. And while Zardari has called for an investigation into yesterday’s attack, he penned a column for today’s Washington Post in which he declared unequivocally “we stand with the United States”. As one Rand Corp. analyst put it, Zardari “definitely wants to be Washington’s man“.
But Zardari’s problems go deeper than that. His coalition’s majority is weak after the PML-N joined the opposition in response to Zardari refusing to reinstate judges ousted by previous President Pervez Musharraf. The purge of certain Bhutto allies has also fomented serious divisions within his own party, and his long-standing reputation for corruption has done little to restore investor confidence at a time when Pakistan’s economy is floundering and its foreign exchange reserves are running dangerously low.
Yet even more pressing than all of these problems is the Ramadan ceasefire that Pakistan’s government announced Sunday, only one week after they’d harshly condemned a similar proposal by tribal elders. The ceasefire came at the behest of legislators from the tribal areas in return for a promise of support for Zardari. But no ceasefire ever materialized, and virtually every day since the announcement fresh reports of Pakistani forces killing militants in Swat Valley have emerged. The phantom ceasefire has outraged MPs from the tribal areas, and has led many to threaten to quit the coalition if the attacks do not cease. FATA parliamentary leader Munir Orakzai is quoted as saying “we are so disappointed with this government that we will not support Asif Zardari. We might quit the coalition if the government doesn’t review its habit of lying”.