Pakistan on Nobel Peace Prize: Why now when war isn't over?

Reaction President Barack Obama's Nobel was largely negative, with fear over an expanding US presence and anger over Islamabad's military cooperation with the US along the Afghanistan border.

By , Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor

Reaction to President Barack Obama's Nobel peace prize in Pakistan has been overwhelmingly negative, with opinion ranging from bewilderment to irritation and outrage.

The fact that the United States is engaged in an unpopular war across the border in Afghanistan and that Obama is considering a proposal to send 40,000 more troops there – on top of the stepped-up use of aerial drones to strike out at Taliban and Al Qaeda leaders living inside Pakistan – isn't helping. A recent poll by the International Republican Institute found that 80 percent of Pakistanis oppose Islamabad's cooperation with the US in tracking down militants.

The reaction in Pakistan is a reminder that, for all the global goodwill toward Obama, winning support for tough foreign policy priorities will still be a long, hard slog. With paranoia surrounding the expansion of the US Embassy in Islamabad and the alleged presence of Xe (formerly known as Blackwater) security guards growing, some are even blaming the Obama administration for unrest and suicide bombings in Pakistan.

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"Today's bomb blast in Peshawar, where [at least] 40 have been killed, is a reaction to the policies of Obama and the government of Pakistan. There is something very wrong with this decision," says Abdul Ghaffar Aziz, director of foreign affairs of the Jamaat-e-Islami, an Islamist political party.

Nasir Ali, an Islamabad taxi driver, says, "everyone I know curses Obama, and if he was here in front of me, I would curse him, too."

Some, like Rabia Shahid, a law-college lecturer in the eastern city of Lahore, had a more measured reaction. "It seems like the decision revolves around his charisma and all the hype surrounding his presidency, and the euphoria after the Bush years. Closing Guantánamo was a good start, but you really need more results," she says.

Cyril Almeida, the assistant editor of Dawn, a leading English daily, says that the decision is likely to fuel cynicism, even among moderates. "The real point is that when somebody is given a Nobel Peace Prize, you shouldn't have to think hard about why they have it," he says. "It should be obvious. This decision will be met at the least by a collective scratching of heads, if not genuine disbelief."

The international politics behind Obama's Nobel Peace Prize.

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