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Why Musharraf fears the Sharif-Zardari coalition
March 07, 2008
The general election was held about three weeks ago in Pakistan, but the president of the country is reluctant to call the meeting of the new National Assembly.
Three new victors -- the Pakistan People's Party, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and Awami National Party have shown their majority many days ago, but President Pervez Musharraf [Images] is playing delaying games and using secret agencies to break the majority party PPP from the PML faction of Nawaz Sharif.
Musharraf is confident that the new friendship between Sharif and Asif Ali Zardari will not last long and that they will part ways soon.
The president has met at least all the newly elected PML-Quaid members of the National Assembly and has urged them to remain united on one platform.
Background interviews with many PML-Q legislators who recently met Musharraf revealed that the president is sure that the issue for the restoration of deposed judges will remain a great source of difference between PPP and PML-N.
The president even predicted to one group of members of the National Assembly that the PPP will have no other option than to make a coalition with PML-Q and Muttahida Quami Movement after a few weeks.
On the other side, the PPP leadership has decided that they will not form the federal government in case the PML-N is not ready to share "responsibility" by joining the cabinet at the Centre.
"We can even sit in the opposition and that is one of the few reasons we are not in a hurry to announce our candidate for premiership," a top PPP leader claimed.
PPP sources have revealed that the president's camp is putting pressure from different quarters to join hands with the PML-Q.
PML-Q leader Hamid Nasir Chattha recently met Zardari as the president's messenger and pleaded with him not to trust Sharif.
The president claimed before many visitors that Zardari is in contact with him through different channels and will say good bye to Sharif soon.
One PML-Q MNA Riaz Pirzada dared to disagree with Musharraf and told him respectfully that "until you are sitting in the office of the president, Sharif and Zardari will not fight with each other."
Pirzada told this scribe, "I advised the president that he should play the role of an elder and he should not encourage all those who want to create differences within the political forces because these conspiracies will further destabilise the country."
Pirzada also advised the president to get rid of PML-Q president Chaudhry Shujaat Hussein who has no reason to continue as the head of the party after the humiliating defeat in the recent election.
PML-Functional MNA Jehangir Khan Tareen also advised the president in a recent meeting to disassociate himself from the Chaudhrys of Gujrat, but the president never gave any serious consideration to the former industries minister of the Shaukat Aziz cabinet.
It is learnt that Governor of Punjab Lt Gen Retd Khalid Maqbool is also trying his best to become a bridge between PPP and PML-Q in the biggest province of Pakistan.
He contacted the provincial president of PPP Punjab Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi a few days ago and offered the chief ministership to him.
The governor made it clear to Qureshi that he was better than Shahbaz Sharif, that he must become the CM of his province and that the PML-Q and some independents would support him unconditionally.
Qureshi politely declined the offer and informed the governor that he respects the mandate of PML-N given to it by the people of Punjab.
Some PPP insiders claimed that the president's camp want the PML-N out of government at every cost.
The president's camp is not only against the restoration of deposed judges, they also have fears over the charter of democracy signed between PPP and PML-N two years ago.
According to that charter, both parties agreed to restore the 1973 Constitution as on October 13, 1999, and the appointment of governors. They agreed that the three service chiefs of the armed forces shall be appointed by the prime minister, that the appointment of judges to the superior judiciary will be made with the advice of Parliament an that the National Security Council and the National Accountability Bureau would be abolished.
Musharraf is aware that if the charter of democracy is implemented, he will lose all important powers and only a PPP-PML-Q coalition could save him.
Some Western diplomats are also making last efforts to force the PPP into making an alliance with the pro-Musharraf PML-Q.
The PPP leadership is trying to convince the US State Department through different lobbyists that Musharraf has lost his credibility and the PPP leadership cannot afford to support him.
A trusted friend of the late Benazir Bhutto [Images], Hussain Haqqani recently met the US Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia Richard Boucher and urged him to make a pro-Pakistan policy instead of a pro-Musharraf policy.
It is also learnt that the president's camp is trying to impose a prime minister of their own liking on the PPP, but Zardari is not ready to take any dictation in this regard.
He was approached for a detailed meeting with Musharraf, but he declined in a very polite manner.
He will meet another PML-N delegation in the coming few days for resolving the judges issue.
"I have accepted Sharif as my elder brother; I know I will have problems being as a younger brother, but our relationship is the need of time. If we cannot sit in the government, no problem; we will continue this relationship while sitting in opposition," Zardari told this scribe.
It seems that Zardari is playing safe, he doesn't want to work with Musharraf, but is reluctant to oppose him openly.
Ultimately, Musharraf will not be able to trap Zardari; he has to leave not only the president's office, but also Pakistan.