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Zardari for President of Pakistan ?

This is a scenario that would have seemed impossible only one year ago, several things have happened in Pakistan that have changed the entire political arena over there. For the past several weeks, the 2 warring ruling parties of Zardari and Sharif have united on kicking Musharraf out from his less-important position of President. This seemed like a major effort – after all, he was the dictator of Pakistan for a period of 9 years, and Army Chief for as long; now reduced to a position where he had to go looking for support from other more powerful people. Musharraf had 3 levels of support – the US, the Army, and his handpicked politicians, unofficially called the King’s party.
However, all these have been crumbling one by one. Musharraf had to give up his army post, and given that the post of Army Chief is the one that gives a lot of power, he must have faced tremendous pressure before agreeing for this move (it is supposed that it was the combined pressure of the US and the Corps Commanders that finally persuaded him to do this); secondly, the US seems to have realized that he has not lived up to the promises he made to them – almost as if ‘he took them for a ride’. For the past several months, the US has been piling on the pressure on him in terms of his duplicity in both supporting and opposing terror. And, the Kings Party was decimated in the polls, and the anti-Musharraf forces of Zardari and Sharif came to power.


This resignation by Musharraf must have been the only option available. Army Chief Kiyani would be loath to see the precedent of any former Army Chief being impeached by Parliament (would lead to a lowering of the prestige and power of the Army); at the same time, he would have been willing to let Musharraf go as the President since there was very little incentive to support his continuance there and bring the Army into a confrontation with the elected powers (he would confront the politicians whenever it is a critical matter, so forcing the politicians to rescind the order to bring the ISI under the control of the Prime Minister was a done deal). So, Musharraf is now gone, and he is unlikely to play a significant role from now on.
What is now pending is the power play between the PPP and Sharif’s Muslim League. Sharif has staked his prestige on getting back the sacked judges, including the Chief Justice. Zardari cannot be sure that the returned judges will not order his amnesty to be illegal (no doubt, the former Chief Justice did not give any such assurances to Zardari). With the nomination for Zardari for President, this is an attempt to get 2 of the high power posts for the PPP, and not something that Sharif would be very happy with.

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