A donor conference in Tokyo has managed to secure five billion dollars in aid for Pakistan, one billion more than the embattled south Asian country actually asked for.
The pledges reflect international concern that an economic meltdown in Pakistan could fan popular support for al Qaeda and other militant groups. Many, like Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso fear a politically weak Pakistan could also destabilise the border region with neighbouring Afghanistan. “Without the stability of Pakistan,” he said, “there can be no stability in Afghanistan. The stability of the border region of the two countries is the key to success, and I would like to stress the need for the international community to support both countries as they work out their own comprehensive strategies on the border region.” And, as if to emphasise the point, on the same day as the donor conference, Pakistan saw the defiant return from prison of the radical head of the Red Mosque, Maulana Abdul Aziz. He was arrested by troops in 2007 after a bloody siege at a mosque in which militants fought gunbattles with police. Leading thousands of his followers in prayers he renewed calls for the enforcement of Islamic Sharia Law across the country.