PAKISTAN is not anyone's best friend at the moment. The US and UK governments are critical of what they see as Pakistan's half-hearted efforts to bring the Taliban to heel in the frontier regions with Afghanistan and both Gordon Brown and Hillary Clinton have pointedly asked why it has taken so long to “smoke out” Osama bin Laden. Generally, there is anxiety that the Pakistan government may fall and the country's nuclear arsenal be left vulnerable to terrorists.

In an article in the New York Times yesterday, the Pakistani President, Asif Ali Zardari, attempted to answer these criticisms and did so in part by recalling the recent history of his country's relations with the United States. He said that “twice the United States has abandoned its democratic values to support dictators and manipulate and exploit us.” The first was Zia ul-Haq in the 1980s and the second Musharraf more recently. Zardari also accused the US of supporting those elements in Afghanistan's war against the Soviet Union which became the Taliban and al-Qaeda; further, he said, when the Soviet Union pulled out of Afghanistan the United States lost interest and left a vacuum. These accusations are not new, nor is Pakistan's obsession with India which Asif Ali Zardari inevitably turned to in his article, calling for American “neutrality” in its attitude to the two countries and a better recognition of the need for a settlement of the Kashmir issue.


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