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Thursday, April 02, 2009

US officials think Zardari’s days are numbered: NYT

“To enter the office where Asif Ali Zardari, the president of Pakistan, conducts his business, you head down a long corridor towards two wax statues of exceptionally tall soldiers, each in a long, white tunic with a glittering column of buttons. On closer inspection, these turn out to be actual human beings who have been trained in the arts of immobility. The office they guard, though large, is not especially opulent or stupefying by the standards of such places. President Zardari met me just inside the doorway, and then seated himself facing a wide screen TV displaying an image of fish swimming in a deep blue sea. His party spokesman, Farhatullah Babar and his presidential spokesman, Farahnaz Ispahani, sat facing him, almost as rigid as the soldiers. Zardari is famous for straying off message and saying odd things or jumbling facts and figures. He is also famous for blaming his aides when things go wrong - and things have been going wrong quite a lot lately. Zardari’s aides didn’t want him to talk to me. Now they were tensely waiting for a mishap.

When I asked Zardari why he had imposed governor’s rule, he embarked on another adventure in logic. “No democratic party would like to do governor’s rule,” he said. “It’s in the constitution; it’s part of necessity. The government advised me to put governor’s rule, and I took their advice, as I am bound by the constitution to accept the advice from the government.” The official line is that, with the local government dissolved and no single party in the majority and thus able to form a new government, Islamabad had to step in. In fact, in such situations the constitution requires the governor to ask the largest party to seek to form a majority - as the PML-N surely would have done - although the president does have the right to impose governor’s rule if he judges the province to be unstable.


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