PAKISTAN is in need of stability and good governance but seems to get neither. The possibility that President Zardari might lose the amnesty which has protected him from corruption charges was mentioned in this space several days ago and yesterday the country's Supreme Court ruled that it should be ended. Although Mr Zardari cannot be prosecuted while he remains president, the pressure on him to resign will be considerable; he is not a popular figure and the charges against him which go back to the late 1990s implicate other ministers and civil servants.

The chief justice Ifitikhar Muhammad Chaudry who announced the Supreme Court's decision was removed from office by President Musharraf because of his independence but was reinstated by Zardari after he became president under pressure from the United States and street protests in Pakistan.

The law of unintended consequences is seen to be at work again. The West wants Pakistan to be a functioning democracy, so that it can enlist its support against the Taliban in Afghanistan and against Islamic extremists in Pakistan with a clear conscience, but the instruments of democracy, such as in an independent judiciary, may themselves prevent that objective from being reached. Mr Zardari's position has been weakened and the West's reliance on him as a strong and reliable ally has been weakened accordingly.


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