» News » Sharif, Zardari will 'request' Musharraf to step down

Sharif, Zardari will 'request' Musharraf to step down

By Hamid Mir in Islamabad
March 10, 2008 12:49 IST
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It was on March 9, 2007 that Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf removed Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry from office. On the same date a year on, the two biggest victors in the recent election announced that all the deposed judges, including Chief Justice Chaudhry, would be reinstated.

The Musharraf camp did not expect a breakthrough on this issue between Zardari and Sharif. The president was assured by some fifth columnists within the Pakistan People's Party, 'We will convince Asif Ali Zardari not to trust Nawaz Sharif and not restore Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry because he could become a threat for you.'

There were others who were trying to create misunderstanding between Zardari and Sharif's party, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, saying Sharif had secret contacts with Musharraf and that he was under US pressure not to restore the judiciary.

Zardari and Sharif signed an undertaking on Sunday not only for the restoration of deposed judges, but they also agreed to join the cabinet both at the federal and Punjab state levels.

It is important to note that some PPP lawyers were missing from the joint press conference on Sunday. They claimed just a day earlier that only a constitutional amendment with a two-thirds majority could restore the deposed judges. PPP lawyer Senator Farooq Naik and PML-N leader Khawaja Muhammad Asif played a vital role in saving the Sharif-Zardari friendship.

The decisions announced at the Bhurban press conference are not the end of the story. Something more explosive has been decided between the two new political friends and these decisions will be announced at a later time. The PPP and PML-N have decided that after the restoration of judges through a parliamentary resolution, the new ruling coalition will 'request' Musharraf to step down respectfully.

Initially, Nawaz Sharif wanted to have Musharraf arrested and tried in a court of law under charges of treason, but Zardari convinced him not to 'humiliate the enemy', and rather provide him a 'safe passage'. Zardari agreed that if Musharraf does not agree to step down, then the new ruling coalition may seek impeachment.

It is learnt that at least one of Musharraf's close friends has advised him to step down from office honourably and also requested him not to become a tool in the hands of the PML-Q, the biggest losers in the recent election.

Some PML-Q leaders tried to contact Makhdoom Amin Fahim, the frontrunner for the post of prime minister, who was missing from the joint press conference on Sunday. The PML-Q leaders sent messages to Fahim on Saturday and Sunday saying they would support him in case the PPP nominates someone else for the post of prime minister. However, it is also learnt that Fahim did not give an encouraging response to the PML-Q and its 'secret patrons'.

One PPP legislator from Sindh said Fahim cannot afford any revolt against Zardari. Fahim's biggest supporters Khurshid Shah and Raza Rabbani joined Zardari in Bhurban and he is not in a position to form a big group against Zardari within the PPP.

PPP sources claim that after the agreement on the restoration of judges, naming the new prime minister will not be a difficult decision for Zardari. Nabel Gabol, a PPP member of the national assembly from Karachi, said Zardari made it clear that the PPP was not offered the prime ministership in 2002, and surprisingly, Fahim did not question Zardari's claim.

The PPP co-chairperson also revealed to his colleagues that Major General Ehtesham Zamir of the ISI told him in front of Fahim in 2002, 'We can offer you anything other than prime minister.' Fahim, however, told his friends that he was, in fact, offered the prime minister's post in 1990 by the then ISI chief, Lieutenant General Hameed Gul.

PPP sources said Zardari may surprise everyone when he announces his nominee for the post of prime minister. He may nominate a person other than Fahim and Chaudhry Ahmad Mukhtar. Nawaz Sharif has assured Zardari that the PML-N will fully support any person nominated by the PPP and any efforts to create differences in PPP will be defeated jointly.

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Hamid Mir in Islamabad