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Home > India > News > Columnists > Hamid Mir

US will pressure PPP to keep Musharraf

February 21, 2008

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The Bush administration still considers Pervez Musharraf [Images] as its best choice for president of Pakistan despite a big no from Pakistani voters on February 18 against America's most trusted friend.

Efforts are on to bridge the gap between Musharraf and Pakistan People's Party co-chairperson Asif Ali Zardari who described the president as 'Gorbachev' immediately after Benazir Bhutto's [Images] assassination on December 27.

The US is pushing the PPP to develop a 'working relationship' with Musharraf, but the party is reluctant to make any commitment yet.

A source close to Musharraf said the PPP has no other choice than to cooperate with them, else the National Reconciliation Ordinance may go and Zardari could be arrested.

A top diplomat in Islamabad said, "The US invested more than $10 billion in Musharraf; they will not allow anyone to destroy this huge investment."

It is learnt that the Bush administration needs Musharraf to stay in power not only for the war against terror, but also for implementing a new Kashmir plan before the presidential election in the US later this year.

A close aide of the president, Tariq Aziz, completed his homework on this new Kashmir plan just few days before the election.

He recently spent many days in Dubai where he met important Kashmiri leaders from India-controlled Kashmir with New Delhi's consent.

Musharraf planned to start a new initiative on Kashmir in April with the support of a new political government, but the people's verdict on February 18 shattered his plans.

He is not ready to realise that the verdict was not only against him, but that it also rejected all those policies which were taken under US pressure.

The fact is Musharraf is the most unpopular man in Pakistan, but he is still the most popular Pakistani in the White House and among India's ruling elite.

Top Indian officials gave many hints to the international media before February 18 that they like Musharraf more than anyone else in Pakistan.

The Bush administration is now ready to oblige the PPP with a United Nations investigation into Benazir's assassination.

In return, Washington needs the PPP to support Musharraf. The PPP leadership is still inclined to form a coalition with the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and the Awami National Party, but the restoration of the deposed judges is becoming a problem between the two parties.

Many important PPP leaders like Senator Raza Rabbani, Senator Babar Awan and Sherry Rehman supported the idea of forming a coalition with the PML-N at the party's central executive committee meeting.

A few days before February 18, Zardari assured Nawaz Sharif that both of them would resolve the issue of the judges after the election. It is no longer a secret in the capital of Pakistan that the Bush administration forced the PPP to desist from giving support to deposed Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry.

Top US officials conveyed their dislike for Justice Chaudhry to the PPP leadership long before the election.

PPP leaders were informed that Justice Chaudhry had sympathies for Islamic hardliners because he ordered the release of some alleged militants in 2007.

Visiting US Senators recently demanded the release of the deposed judges, but not their restoration.

A top PPP leader informed Democratic Senator John Kerry in Islamabad that Musharraf has nothing to lose politically after February 18, but the PPP will be destroyed after supporting Musharraf.

The PPP is also aware of the bad relations between Musharraf and Pakistan's independent media.

The PPP leadership knows the media may put Zardari in the line of fire by quoting anti-PPP paragraphs from Musharraf's autobiography.

PPP sources are confident that an expected meeting between Zardari and Nawaz Sharif will clear the uncertainty about the future of a PPP-PML-N coalition.

Sharif has conveyed to the Bush administration that he is not against the war on terror, but he will support a war against terror for Pakistan, not America, and that the Bush administration should not interfere in the politics of Pakistan.

It is most likely that the Bush administration will fail to save its most trusted friend because the PPP and the PML-N are determined to form a coalition and clip all those powers through which a president can dissolve Parliament.

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