On Thursday, Pakistan People’s Party co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari, in an interview with the Press Trust of India, “launched a tirade” against President Pervez Musharraf, reported Pakistani news outlets. According to the Daily Times, Zardari called Musharraf “a relic of the past,” standing between the people of Pakistan and democracy “and there is tremendous pressure on the new government to ensure his ouster from office.” He added, “He has taken off his uniform thanks to the dialogue by my (late) wife (and former premier Benazir Bhutto) and the world pressure…But that does not make him into a democrat or a civilian president.” According to Pakistani news agencies, Zardari said he is under tremendous pressure to oust Musharraf from office, noting that the public was telling the PPP, “We don’t want bread, we don’t want electricity, but we want him out.”
Dawn quoted Zardari telling the PTI that the PPP was working to “come up with a liveable formula” for ushering in a full-fledged democracy because “after all that has happened, you cannot have an unelected and non-democratic president.” The PPP co-chairman was referring to the party’s constitutional package, which would provide Musharraf indemnity for his unconstitutional actions in return for his resignation, [see related post on the topic]. According to the Associated Press, “[Zardari] said his party would present the 62-point draft to the prime minister later Friday and send copies to partners in the seven-week-old coalition government.” On Friday, a piece in the Daily Times commented on this package, which media sources noted would “erase the legacy” of the president. The news agency noted:
Though the PPP government “publicly” claims that it wants a working relationship with the president, Asif Zardari’s comment that the ruling coalition has to abide by the wishes of the people who are against President Musharraf suggests that the Presidency and the government are at odds over the proposed constitutional package prepared by the PPP.
The Daily Times cited “insiders,” who say the package, which will also include amendments to restore the judges deposed by Musharraf and strip him of many powers, “would create an environment of hostility between the government and the Presidency.” Sure enough, media outlets reported that Musharraf has reacted strongly to Zardari’s statements yesterday, as well as to the package’s amendment that the will resign from office. According to The News, “The Presidency has decided to end all backdoor contacts with Pakistan Peoples Party” following the PPP co-chairman’s remarks, and Musharraf will express these reservations to PM Yousaf Raza Gilani in a meeting today or tomorrow. Moreover, although media outlets previously reported that the president had been consulted on the constitutional package, a presidential spokesman dismissed these claims, adding there had been no contact between Musharraf and Zardari on the proposed legislation.
Therefore, it appears that Musharraf’s “safe exit” may not be as impending as news sources reported days earlier. Moreover, as the AP noted, observers predict the constitutional package “will quickly bog down in political horse-trading,” since constitutional amendments require a two-thirds majority. So we may soon find ourselves back at square one – again. [Image from The News]