Army mulling Zardari’s ouster

Army mulling Zardari’s ouster

After Kyani-Gillani talks Prez asked to stay put in Dubai

Islamabad, March 11:
With president Asif Ali Zardari on a trip to Iran, Prime Minister of Pakistan Yousuf Raza Gillani has reportedly sided with Army Chief General Parvez Kayani to oust the widower of late Benazir Bhutto from power.
Kayani called on Gillani at the Prime Minister’s House and discussed the security situation in the country.
The two leaders met at a time when Zardari is out of the country to attend a summit of the Economic Cooperation Organisation in Tehran.

Sources said that the two leaders discussed the long march of Nawaz Sharif and attempts being made to counter it. “During the meeting both Gillani and Kayani expressed their displeasure over the working of Zardari,” they said.
After the meeting, there were media reports that Zardari was asked to stay in Iran and not return to Pakistan.
A spokesperson for President Asif Ali Zardari, who is visiting Tehran, rejected reports that the Army had asked him not to return to the country. “There is no change in the President’s scheduled return to Islamabad. The reports of his staying on in Dubai and postponing his return are absolutely false, mischievous and seem deliberately designed to cause confusion,” the spokesperson said.
Gilani has better ties with the Pakistan Army than Zardari. He is seen more acceptable to army than Zardari.
The development, according to sources, follows the Pakistan Army chief, General Ashfaq Pervez Kiyani, asking President Zardari to resolve persistent political crises within days.
An alliance of opposition parties, headed by two-time former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and the influential legal community, plans to start a protest rally, dubbed a Long March, from the southern port city of Karachi Thursday and reach Islamabad four days later.
It plans to hold a sit-in in the capital until its demand for the restoration of the judiciary under independent-minded former Supreme Court chief justice Iftikhar Chaudhry is met.
Zardari is resisting to restore sacked chief justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhary as he fears that the reinstated judges could limit his powers and revive corruption cases against him.
On Wednesday, Nawaz dared the Zardari government in a rally addressed in Abbottabad saying that the latter has been responsible for all the on-going trouble in Pakistan.
He said: “The turnout shows our strength. Zardari is responsible for all the trouble for Pakistan. When Pakistan’s future looks dark, then how can I stay back at my house,” he added. “How can I stay back when the judicial system is not in place. The state apparatus is not working and the challenges on our borders are too many? We were very happy with Musharraf’s exit, but nothing has changed since then. I had high hopes when I signed the CoD with Benazir Bhutto.”
Why is the opposition up in arms?
Former prime minister and opposition leader Nawaz Sharif, who heads the country’s second-biggest party, is furious with Zardari after the Supreme Court last month effectively barred Sharif and his politician brother, Shahbaz, from contesting elections.
Shahbaz Sharif’s victory in a by-election last year was nullified, and he was disqualified from holding the office as chief minister of Punjab, the most populous and most influential of Pakistan’s four provinces.
Zardari then imposed central rule, known as governor’s rule, in Punjab for two months, and threw out the provincial government of the Sharifs’ Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) (PML-N).
The Sharifs have accused Zardari of being behind the court decision and their supporters have taken to the streets.
Both Sharif and Zardari covet Punjab — politicians say whoever controls the province that returns more than half the members of the National Assembly controls the country — but neither has a clear majority in the provincial assembly.
What’s at stake?
Pakistan’s latest attempt at democracy is at risk. Musharraf’s successor as army chief, General Ashfaq Kayani, has vowed to keep the army out of politics. But, the danger is that if the crisis becomes acute, the military, which has ruled for more than half the country’s 61 years of history, will feel forced to act.
The army has little reason to back Sharif even if Zardari is widely unpopular and disliked by hawkish elements who distrust his pro-West stance and dovishness towards India.
Sharif had bad relations with at least three army chiefs during the 1990s. Moreover, the West is wary of Sharif, believing that he panders to the religious/nationalist constituency that opposes the war on terrorism.