CIVIL SOCIETY PAKISTAN

May 23, 2008

Zardari gets tough with Musharraf

Filed under: NEW GOVERNMENT AFTER MARCH 24-2008 — civilsocietypakistan @ 3:15 am
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THE NEWS

MAY 23, 2008

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Updated at  

Friday, May 23, 2008

By Ansar Abbasi

ISLAMABAD: Hardening of Asif Ali Zardari�s tone towards President Musharraf is the reflection of behind the scene tensions between the Presidency and the Zardari House.

A source having close contact with the PPP co-chairman confided to this correspondent that the Presidency is not approving the proposed constitutional package being prepared by the Zardari House.

To be specific, the source claimed, the president is not willing to surrender his powers to dissolve the National Assembly under Article 58(2)(b) of the Constitution and to appoint services chiefs, including the chief of the Army staff.

The Zardari House�s constitutional package, however, recommends the clipping of president�s power to the pre-Oct 12, 1999 position where he would be a ceremonial head of the state with no powers. The PPP co-chairperson tells his inner circles that he could not accede to such demands of the Presidency as it would be politically suicidal for him.

Zardari, who in the past had been sounding �pragmatic� and talking of working relations with President Musharraf despite the anti-Musharraf mandate of the Feb 18 elections, poured out of his heart his hidden venom in his interview with an Indian wire agency.

The Zardari House was in buoyant mood on Thursday over the co-chairperson�s statement given to Press Trust of India and hinted that something unexpected is going to happen in the days to come. Without explaining the details, the source told this correspondent, �It would be beyond your expectations.�

The PPP co-chairman, whose credibility has suffered a huge dent during the recent weeks, is reportedly sure that the president because of his powers to appoint services chiefs continues to hold his strong grip on the Army. Unless these powers are transferred to the chief executive and the 58(2)(b) is erased, democracy could not exist.

The backtracking of Asif Ali Zardari from the Murree Declaration, the source said, is also the consequence of Presidency�s displeasure conveyed to the PPP co-chairman the same evening when the declaration was signed. The source said that Asif Ali Zardari was warned that the facilitation under the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) might be undone. Later the PPP leaders started distancing themselves from the Murree Accord by creating confusion after confusion. The PPP sources admit that the controversial NRO has been Zardari�s weak point but insisted that at the time of signing the Murree Declaration he was sincere to get along with the PML-N to achieve the mutually agreed goals.

Now when all the corruption cases against Asif Ali Zardari have been dropped because of the NRO, he hinted that Pervez Musharraf�s days in office may be numbered. Today he admits that there is �tremendous� pressure on him from people who want the president�s ouster and that he has �no choice�.

To a pointed query by PTI if Musharraf�s days as President are numbered, Zardari evaded a direct reply saying: �I don�t know whether his days are numbered or my days are numbered or our government�s days are numbered. Who knows that?�

In his private meetings the PPP co-chairman has been sharing with his friends and acquaintances such fears but he never spoke so clearly against the president since Feb 18 as he has spoken now. Zardari, according to a source, believes the information about his meeting with the president was deliberately leaked to the media by the Presidency to create misunderstandings between the PPP and the PML-N.

A close associate of Zardari said that the PPP top leader in one of his interactions with Mian Nawaz Sharif had told the latter that he had faced jail for 12 years and was not fearful of facing the same in the future.

But for all that has been happening in the recent weeks, it is difficult for political analysts to predict if the Zardari House has finally taken a clear position against Musharraf or would change its stance yet again in the coming days.

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