The sheer suffering and human cost of Pakistan’s devastating floods are mounting daily, and frustration with the nation’s president, Asif Ali Zardari, is on the rise as well—and Zardari’s standing with the public was shaky enough before disaster struck. —KA
It was in an attempt to stanch that anger that President Asif Ali Zardari paid a brief visit to Sindh, his native province, last week. Setting down via helicopter in Sukkur and under heavy guard, the leader glimpsed at the devastation, handed out checks to suffering children, stroking their heads to comfort them, and then returned to Islamabad. On Sunday, Zardari accompanied U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to southern Punjab, where Ban said, “This has been a heart-wrenching day for me ... In the past, I have witnessed many natural disasters around the world, but nothing like this.” Before the floods, Zardari’s popularity stood at just 20%. Now it must be at rock bottom. Over the coming weeks, if he wishes to recover his government’s standing, he will have to set Pakistan on a course in which it can begin to rebuild its economy, draw billions of dollars from the international community and help the millions affected by the waters return to their lives. Many doubt whether their President is up to the task.