Saturday, January 12, 2008

Editorial: Pakistan the world's powder keg

5:00AM Friday January 11, 2008

The country most likely to trouble the world in 2008 may not be Iran, Iraq, North Korea, Afghanistan or even Israel - it could be Pakistan. The quality of Pakistan's leadership was most recently evident in the fact that it took President Pervez Musharraf a week to make any comment on the assassination of Benazir Bhutto. Then this week he proved he would have been wiser to keep silent.

Acknowledging she had been shot rather than fatally injured by falling inside her vehicle, as his regime initially asserted, Mr Musharraf said it was her own fault. "For standing up outside the car, I think it was she to blame alone. Nobody else. Responsibility is hers."

Tuesday was the date set for parliamentary elections, which after the assassination were put off for six weeks. Were it not for pressure from Washington, the former Army chief would not have called the election in the first place. Now, with the death of the country's sole symbol of hope, they seem not worth the dissension they will rekindle.

Even Mrs Bhutto, it needs to be said, did not spell much hope. She had been Prime Minister twice before her exile and neither term of office had seen much in the way of an attempt to improve the country's wretched poverty or the tribal divisions and privilege that have long ruled its politics. The Bhutto dynasty has enjoyed and maintained the privilege as much as anyone in its class, and profited from her period of power.

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