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Violence wounds Pakistani trust in U.S.
Question of the Day
The Zardari government has protested the U.S. attacks while appearing to condone air strikes by unmanned craft. It also has mounted its own two-month-old offensive into the northwestern Bajaur region. Officials say the offensive has killed about 1,000 insurgents.
Defense analyst Shireen Mazari said the only way for Pakistan to curb suicide bombings is by distancing itself from the United States.
“Pakistan must unshackle itself from the U.S. agenda,” Miss Mazari wrote in a report for the Islamabad-based Institute for Strategic Studies.
However, political analyst Rasool Baksh Raees said Mr. Zardari has little choice but to retain an alliance with the United States that has brought Pakistan $10 billion in aid since the Sept. 11 attacks.
“We don’t have a lot of options,” Mr. Raees said.
The upswing in suicide attacks is impacting life throughout the country.
In Lahore, Pakistan’s second largest city, Amina Saad, 28, was sitting in a restaurant when her husband called and urged her to leave and for her driver to take her home on side roads.
“I can’t believe this,” said Mrs. Saad, who lives in the U.S. and is in Pakistan on vacation. “We can’t even have lunch in peace.”
In Islamabad, gloom has taken hold since the Marriott bombing. Grand boulevards are choked by concrete barricades and police checkpoints.Helicopter gunships fly above ministries and U.S. diplomats have been forbidden to stay at city hotels.
An already slumping service industry is among many in economic free fall. Inflation has climbed to a 30-year peak rate of 25 percent, plunging the Pakistani rupee to a new low versus a weak dollar.
Economic woes are compounded by higher taxes and oil prices, frequent power outages and a shortage of foreign exchange reserves that have dropped 67 percent over the past year, according to Standard and Poor’s, the financial services company.
Traditional benefactors have kept their distance, though some expect a lifeline from the United States to stave off a total collapse that would further destabilize a region on the brink.
Economic aid would be more effective, a number of lawmakers and analysts say, than unilateral U.S. military operations.
“U.S. policies right now are not just making things worse, they are making our work impossible,” said Khurshid Ahmad, a senator from the Jaamat-e-Islami party, a conservative Muslim group. “They are an insult, as well as an injury, and could destroy our friendship.”
• Ayesha Akram reported from Lahore.
By John McAfee
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