Sharif brothers’ poll bar widens Zardari-Gilani rift

February 26th, 2009 - 8:09 pm ICT by IANS  

Nawaz SharifIslamabad, Feb 26 (IANS) The electoral disqualification of the Sharif brothers has widened the simmering rift between Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani with analysts saying the views of army chief Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani could tilt the balance either way.
That the rift was for real was evident from Gilani’s statement Wednesday hours after the Supreme Court disqualified the brothers, an action that led to the collapse of chief minister Shahbaz Sharif’s Punjab provincial government.

Terming the court decision as “unfortunate for the prospects of democracy” Gilani pointed out that the “objective” of his Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) all along had “reconciliation” with former prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) “and we had been moving toward it”.

This would surely have made Zardari bristle because it is widely talked about that he appointed his trusted aide Salman Taseer as the Punjab governor with the sole purpose of destabilising the Shabaz Sharif regime and appointing a PPP-led dispensation in its place.

As for how the situation will now play out, The News daily noted Thursday that the stand of the Pakistani Army, “the most critical player in the power troika” in the “present turbulent political situation is the key factor that may determine” whether Zardari or Gilani “will win”.

“The support or otherwise of the GHQ (General Headquarters) will also determine (Gilani’s) fate “as he had taken public positions which were diametrically opposed” to those of Zardari, the newspaper added.

Kayani is currently on a visit to the US and because of this there was no indication on where the Pakistani Army stood on Wednesday’s developments.

“They are waiting for instructions,” The News quoted a source close to the power circles as saying when asked whether Wednesday’s happenings would be acceptable or approved by the army high command.

If Zardari “gets away with what he has done, the first obvious casualty” will be Gilani, “who had gone a bit too far in the opposite direction” to what the president “was thinking and planning”, the newspaper quoted an insider as saying.

And, if Zardari succeeds in keeping the situation under control in the coming days, his next target would be sections of the media that have been critical of his decisions, specifically trashing the judiciary, including the judges of the Supreme Court and the high courts.

In such a situation, The News quoted analysts as saying, “the political, democratically-elected government will turn out to be more autocratic and dictatorial than even the ousted military ruler General (retd) Pervez Musharraf”.

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