The assassination of the governor of Pakistan's Punjab province is a major setback for progressive forces in that country and a deeply worrying sign for U.S. strategy in the region, says analyst Fareed Zakaria.
For the United States, this issue is actually at the center of whether or not it will be able to succeed in Afghanistan. Let's remember, the strategy in Afghanistan cannot succeed as long as there are sanctuaries for the Taliban and al Qaeda in neighboring Pakistan.
Right now what happens is the Taliban crosses the border from Afghanistan into Pakistan, regroups, gains support, logistics, resources in Pakistan, and then comes back to fight the U.S. forces or Afghan government forces. This has been the key to their ability to survive and thrive, so unless you can deal with the sanctuaries in Pakistan, you're not going to make any headway in Afghanistan.
The entire leadership of al Qaeda and the leadership of the worst elements of the Taliban are all in Pakistan now. In order to deal with that, to destroy those terrorist groups, the Pakistani army has to be willing to go into the areas where these various groups have their strongholds, mostly in a part of Pakistan called North Waziristan.
So far, the Pakistani army has refused to do so. The most important reason is that they fear a backlash within Pakistan. They're too nervous about the political consequences of having this frontal struggle against Islamic extremism. So if you can't confront Islamic extremism with things like the blasphemy law, what hope is there that they actually go ahead and mount large-scale military operations in North Waziristan?