The Taliban today "poses a greater threat to U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan than at any time in the last seven years," Bruce Reidel, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and a former CIA officer, wrote this week. "Ironically, Pakistan is the logistical hub for both the Taliban which operates from safe havens in Pakistan, and NATO which gets more than 80 percent of its supplies via the Pakistani port of Karachi."
The U.S. and Afghanistan both believe the stronger the Taliban in Pakistan are, the more U.S. soldiers will die.
"The fight against terrorism is not in Afghanistan, and we will not be secure and safe … unless Afghanistan and the international community address the question of sanctuaries in Pakistan and the terrorist training camps there," Afghan President Hamid Karzai said this week.
Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, former Supreme Court Chief Justice
The beginning of the end for President Pervez Musharraf was when he fired Chaudhry last spring. In response, the general, who had a nearly 70 percent approval rating, suddenly found protestors outside his door. A "lawyer's movement" was hatched, giving many people in Paksitan the confidence to speak out against Musharraf.
"The movement started with a single judge," Rais says.
Today, he is at the center of the power politics between Zardari and Sharif. Sharif insists that all the deposed judges need to be reinstated, especially Chaudhry.
Zardari fears that if Chaudhry is reinstated he might declare that the National Reconciliation Order, which provided him immunity from prosecution, was unconstitutional.
Asfandyar Wali and Maulana Fazlur Rehman
President, Awami National Party and Chairman, Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-F political party
These two senior politicians are the buffer between Zardari and Sharif. If Sharif remains in the coalition and the judges are restored, Pakistanis will have these two men to thank.
Wali's party, a national Pashtun party, controls the Northwest Frontier province. He is a favorite of the United States and oversees the areas of Pakistan in which the United States is most interested.
Rehman's party used to run the Northwest Frontier, and still holds sway the country's religious parties.
Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani
Officially, the most powerful man in government. But much of the power rests with Zardari himself already. And if Zardari becomes President, Gilani "would largely be a figurehead," Rais says.