‘Benazir ghost haunts Zardari’

April 29th, 2008 - 12:20 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Pervez Musharraf

Islamabad, April 29 (IANS) A pre-election deal brokered between Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf and slain former prime minister Benazir Bhutto continues to haunt her widower Asif Ali Zardari, co-chair of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) that heads the ruling coalition, who finds his hands tied because of the pact. Zardari is “bound” by the deal to develop a “working relationship” with the president, The News reported Tuesday.

Quoting a key PPP source who was among those who played a role in bringing the two sides together for the deal, the newspaper said “important people” in Washington and Dubai had acted as guarantors to the agreement between the two sides.

At the same time, PPP spokesperson Farhatullah Babar admitted that the “present situation” was creating doubts in the minds of the people “but assured that Musharraf is not going to have the last laugh”, the newspaper added.

“He hinted that the next few days are really important. He said foreign capitals also change their minds when they see the ground realities changing in the country,” The News said.

At the root of the matter is the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) that paved the way for the return from exile of Bhutto and Zardari by waving the corruption charges that stood against them in Pakistan.

Musharraf promulgated the ordinance on Oct 5, 2007, a day before the presidential election that saw him winning a second term in office.

According to Babar, Musharraf issued the NRO “to get some concessions from the PPP” and when he expressed his apprehensions on this score to Bhutto, she ticked him off.

“Why do you think like this? If such a thing is possible? How can I accept President Musharraf in uniform in deviation of what I have been long struggling for?” Babar quoted Bhutto as asking.

On the flip side, The News quoted its PPP source as saying that Bhutto had sought the promulgation of the NRO and had engaged Farooq Naik, currently the law minister, for drafting the ordinance in consultation with the government.

The PPP source also said that the party’s reservation was only against the president in uniform and not in civvies.

“He said with the blessing of the foreign guarantors, the PPP had agreed to develop a working relationship with Musharraf. He said the present day politics of the PPP has strong connection with the NRO and the conditionalities agreed at that time,” The News said.

Thus, in a situation in which the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), the junior partner in the ruling coalition, is “dying” to get Musharraf removed, “the PPP has developed a working relationship with the top man”, the newspaper said.

“The two sides have discussed a few times the question of Musharraf’s impeachment but Zardari is not eager to such a move apparently for the sake of system. However, many suspect that things are unfolding as were agreed in the deal between the two sides,” The News added.

Meanwhile, eyebrows are being raised over the continuation of key Musharraf acolytes in the PPP-led government. The most conspicuous of these is Attorney General Malik Qayyum.

“It is the prime minister’s authority to replace the attorney general. But it has not yet been done. It is said that (Zardari) wants him to continue till the time all cases filed in the past against him are withdrawn,” The News said.

Questions are also being raised within the PPP as to why the government appointed a Musharraf buddy, Maj. Gen. (retired) Mahmud Durrani, as the prime minister’s national security advisor.

“The people generally feel and the PPP leaders agree that other than change of faces in the prime minister’s office and those of the ministers, it is business as usual in Islamabad,” The News said.

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