Judging from the breathless reporting out of Pakistan, President Asif Ali Zardari is only hanging onto power by the skin of his teeth. Zardari and many of his closest allies face serious political troubles because Pakistan’s supreme court recently overturned a Musharraf-era amnesty deal that had allowed him, his then-wife Benazir Bhutto, and a raft of other politicians to brush off unsettled cases of graft and corruption and return to government office.
Whatever the legal merits of Zardari's case, this judicial action poured lighter fluid onto an anti-Zardari flame that had already been burning for many months. If left untended, this flame could again consume Pakistan in the sort of destabilizing political protests experienced at the end of the Musharraf regime.
For the Obama administration, Zardari’s political troubles pose an especially tricky challenge. After the White House’s second Af-Pak strategy review culminated in a pledge to send an additional 30,000 troops to Afghanistan, there is no doubt that the United States needs a strong partner in Islamabad in order to advance its regional counterterrorism and counterinsurgency efforts.