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Thursday, September 24, 2009

Syed Saleem Shazad - Pakistan works the crowd

In Pakistan, problems loom. Last Friday, while addressing the International Institute of Strategic Studies in London, President Asif Ali Zardari surprised the world audience with a new proposal that marks a meaningful step in the ongoing fight against terrorism and a possible breakthrough with India if Delhi accepts his proposal to join the Friends of Democratic Pakistan (FoDP).

Zardari, though, faces difficulties with the military. The bad blood goes back to Zardari's nomination as president after General Pervez Musharraf stepped down in August 2008. The powerful Corps Commanders unanimously urged Kiani to intervene, but he refused, saying he wanted democracy to take root in the country and whomever was picked by the political parties should be elected.

On March 17, when Zardari's government was under siege from opposition rallies over a judicial crisis, the Pakistani intelligence sharpened differences between Zardari's government and opposition leader Nawaz Sharif. This allowed Kiani to intervene and force Zardari to restore judges dismissed last year by Musharraf.

Zardari and the security apparatus clashed again when the director general of the Inter-Services Intelligence, Lieutenant General Ahmad Shuja Pasha, challenged Zardari's close friend and advisor Dr Asim Hussain over alleged corruption. Zardari promptly told Shuja Pasha to "mind your own business". This brought tremendous applause from Washington and Kiani emerged as a hero, and the military's star was on the rise again. Pundits in Islamabad agree that whether or not Kiani stages a coup, he will definitely stay on as army chief. And recently, Kiani did manage to get rid of Asim Hussain, and Zardari could do nothing about it. The speculation now is that the military might decide around December this year or early next year that Zardari's time as head of state is over. Pakistan works the crowdBy Syed Saleem Shahzad


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