US Reaches Out to Pakistani Opposition

Administration presses bitter rivals to unite against Taliban threat
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted May 2, 2009 5:58 AM CDT
A convoy of Pakistan army moves on its way to troubled Swat valley in Pakistan on Thursday, April 30, 2009.    (AP Photo/Mohammad Sajjad)
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(Newser) – The Obama administration is seeking closer ties with the Pakistani president's biggest—and most bitter—rival, the New York Times reports. The US previously shunned Nawaz Sharif because of his links to Islamists, but diplomats now believe Sharif's popularity among that group could help bolster Asif Ali Zardari's embattled government against the rapidly growing Taliban threat if the two can cooperate.

Sharif—a former prime minister who was deposed in a 1999 coup—is scoring far higher in popularity polls than Zardari, whose grip on power the Defense Department described yesterday as "very, very weak." "We told them they’re facing a national challenge, and for that, you need bipartisanship,” a senior administration official said. "They need to band together against the militants.”