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Pakistan still caught in a morass five years after Benazir’s assassination

Political leadership must focus efforts on improving the country’s economic and security situation

Gulf News

December 27 marked the death anniversary of former Pakistan prime minister Benazir Bhutto who was assassinated in an alleged Taliban plot five years ago. Despite the passage of time entailing unending investigations her murder trial seems to have been lost in a convoluted legal process. More significant is the seeming apathy of Bhutto’s Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) government that has had enough time to bring the accused to justice.

This anniversary also marked the official launch of her son Bilawal’s political career. Having inherited a weighty legacy, Bilawal faces high expectations. He will be in the driving seat and in charge of steering the PPP forward along with his father Asif Ali Zardari who is constitutionally restricted to conduct political activities while holding the office of the president. The Bhutto scion’s real test will come when delivering on promises that will dominate the political agenda. With preparations for mid-2013 elections stepping up, the chief concerns are economic and security issues.

Blaming the previous Musharraf administration for the dismal economic situation that is marked by crippled growth, soaring inflation and unemployment is not something the current government can use to justify its performance. Security has not improved either.

Considering the time that has transpired, Pakistan is no safer than it was when Bhutto was targeted. Only last week, the government’s coalition party, the Awami National Party (ANP) lost a senior minister, Bashir Ahmad Bilour in a suicide attack in Peshawar. Following Bilour’s assassination, the ANP has urged for military operations against the Taliban. But this will require political consensus as pointed out by the top military officials that have been urging the political leadership to coordinate efforts to counter terrorists.

Further procrastination on dealing with the sharp rise in terror attacks by militants targeting security installations and soft targets in other parts of the country besides the targeted non-militant killings, both sectarian and ethnic based in Karachi does not bode well. Political differences must be laid aside and all parties must join hands to defeat terrorism.