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Opinion: Pakistan floods reveal crisis in country's leadership

President Zardari's trip to Europe highlights uncomfortable truths.

The challenge of maintaining a civil-military balance in the country appears to have become yet more difficult following the latest crisis in the country. Zardari’s ill-timed trip and the central government’s poor response to the floods has allowed the army to position itself yet again as the most efficient national institution when it comes to safeguarding the interests of its people.

Critical reports of Zardari in the national media have often been accompanied by mentions of the army’s presence in the flood-hit areas offering relief to victims. Some of these media reports were possibly influenced by the army’s connections in the media, and hint at underlying tensions between the civilian government and the powerful military establishment. Farzana Shaikh, a Pakistan expert at London-based Chatham House, said it behooves “the international community to ensure that it does not look the other way should the military in Pakistan use this national calamity to further its political fortunes.”

The last two weeks have stressed the weaknesses of the government in Islamabad and the disconnect between the ruling and the ruled in Pakistan. The future leadership faces mounting challenges as the country struggles with violence and terrorism, a weak economy, hostile relations with neighbors, a war in Afghanistan and a rapidly growing population.

But Pakistanis will have to live with leaders whose best qualifications may be their last names, unless the country is able to break away from feudal and personality-based politics.

Jayshree Bajoria is a staff writer for Asia at, the website of the Council on Foreign Relations.