‘Sharif, not Zardari calling the shots in Pakistan’

May 14th, 2008 - 1:00 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Nawaz Sharif

Islamabad, May 14 (IANS) Contrary to popular perception, it now emerges that it is former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and not Asif Ali Zardari, co-chair of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) that heads the country’s ruling coalition, who is calling the shots in Pakistan’s political roller coaster ride. This view is reinforced by the fact that Sharif has even managed to build bridges with two of his most bitter rivals in the erstwhile Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) and could persuade them to cross over to the faction of the League he heads.

Should that happen, it would deal a big blow to President Pervez Musharraf, who had openly backed the PML-Q in the 2002 general elections that brought it to power and in the polls held earlier this year that saw it voted out.

On Monday, Sharif seemingly plunged Pakistan into a crisis when he pulled out the nine Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) ministers from the ruling coalition after differences emerged over reinstating the Supreme Court and high court judges President Pervez Musharraf sacked after imposing an emergency last year. At the same time, Sharif has not backed out of the coalition.

Thus, as The News noted Wednesday, “After several closed-door political moves in Islamabad, Murree, Dubai and London, Nawaz Sharif has emerged as one of the shrewdest politicians of Pakistan”.

“He has not only successfully managed to keep his political alliance with Asif Ali Zardari intact and kept the pro-Musharraf forces away from the power corridors, but has also secured the top slot of chief ministership of Punjab for his younger brother,” the newspaper added.

The article was headlined “Nawaz emerges as wily master blaster”.

“After the masterstroke of resigning from the cabinet, the many secret compromising deals with the PPP notwithstanding, he (Sharif) has received applause from the public and the media on the one hand and has succeeded in portraying Asif Ali Zardari as the political villain on the other,” the newspaper noted.

This apart, Sharif has now quietly opened the lines of communication with his “worst political enemies”, the Chaudhrys of Gujrat - PML-Q president Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and his cousin Chaudhry Pervez Elahi.

The duo were originally part of the PML-N but switched sides after Musharraf overthrew Sharif in a military coup in October 1999.

“This new move, which almost went unnoticed in the national media, was launched by Nawaz, believing there were no permanent friends or foes in politics, only interests mattered,” The News said.

This apart, Hussain’s refusing Musharraf’s suggestion to step down from his PML-Q post seems to have given Sharif a window of opportunity to adopt a forgive-and-forget policy toward the Chaudhrys.

A go-between who has been tasked with bringing the duo around has already held a “chance” meeting with them on a flight from Lahore to Islamabad.

“These former foes are about to get closer in the name of confronting their common enemy - Musharraf. This hour-long chance meeting has given a clear indication that Nawaz was finally preparing to accept his former colleagues to further isolate Musharraf,” The News said.

“Nawaz, whose politics revolves around opposing Musharraf, is now preparing himself for this great reunion and one fine morning may be seen smiling on television screens embracing the Chaudhrys under the guise of principled politics.

“He will market the twist and turn by spinning the story that he had accepted the Chaudhrys only to further isolate Musharraf. As the media and politicians are already tired of Musharraf and his palace intrigues, so they would rush to congratulate Nawaz, instead of asking some tough questions about his previous promises or claims,” the newspaper said.

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