Magazine article Newsweek International

Raja Pervaiz Ashraf

Magazine article Newsweek International

Raja Pervaiz Ashraf

Article excerpt

Byline: Jahanzeb Aslam

A newly elected loyalist faces widespread scorn.

Poor Raja Pervaiz Ashraf. Anywhere else, the prime minister would have been praised for resolving months of deadlock with an ally as important as the United States. But last week, Ashraf was met with nothing but scorn when Pakistan agreed to reopen key supply routes to Afghanistan following a U.S. apology for a NATO airstrike last November that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers.

The announcement couldn't have come at a worse time for the 61-year-old newly elected prime minister. According to recent polls, some 74 percent of Pakistanis now view the U.S. as an enemy, while some 40 percent say American aid has had a "mostly negative" impact on their country. Capitalizing on this sentiment, several opposition parties have already criticized the government's decision to make amends with America. And Ashraf, an amiable two-term member of Parliament, has become the convenient recipient of this wrath--despite widespread speculation that no decision on reopening the supply routes could have been made without the Army's permission.

This is hardly the first time that Ashraf has served as a scapegoat for Pakistan's problems. Although he is widely supported by the government's ruling coalition, Ashraf is Pakistan's former federal water and power minister, and has long been hated by average Pakistanis for his inability to curb the country's crippling power outages. These chronic, nationwide blackouts have resulted in mass protests and serve as daily reminders of the government's failure to deliver on its most basic commitments. …

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