‘West pressurising Zardari, Nawaz to work with Musharraf’

February 23rd, 2008 - 11:35 am ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Pervez Musharraf

Islamabad, Feb 23 (IANS) Western envoys in the Pakistani capital are persuading the leaders of parties that won last Monday’s elections to work with President Pervez Musharraf amid mounting worries about his political future, news reports said Saturday. Musharraf has come under renewed pressure after the elections threw up all opponents of his iron-fisted rule for more than eight years and crushed the main party of his loyalists, the Dawn newspaper said.

The meetings, mainly of American and British ambassadors with the leaders of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), have led to speculations about possible counsels to the makers of the future government to try to co-exist with Musharraf despite years of their mutual hostility, the newspaper said.

No details have been available of the talks, except that matters about transition to democracy and counter-terrorism were among subjects discussed, indicating the West’s concerns about the future of Pakistan’s key role in the so-called “war on terrorism” of which Musharraf is the key ally.

“US ambassador Anne W. Paterson Friday had a second contact with PPP co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari within a few days, though this time accompanied by a Congressional delegation that earlier met President Musharraf,” the newspaper reported.

British High Commissioner Robert Brinkley held a second meeting with Sharif, only a day after the PML-N leader reiterated his hard line against the man who toppled him as prime minister in the Oct 12, 1999 coup, by telling a news conference that “sooner he (president) left the better”.

Washington’s known preference for a power sharing between Musharraf and the PPP had led to the return of PPP leader Benazir Bhutto to Pakistan after about nine years of self-imposed foreign exile.

But any deal cut then was overtaken by Bhutto’s Dec 27 assassination in a gun-and-bomb attack after she addressed a campaign rally in Rawalpindi and the rout of the previously ruling and pro-Musharraf Pakistan Muslim League in the elections.

President Musharraf’s worries are not only about constant ridicule across the country and increasing demands that he step aside, but also the commitment of opposition parties to clip the presidency of its sweeping powers.

Without such powers he would remain just a nominal head of state who must only act on the advice of a prime minister and not have the present authority to sack a prime minister, dissolve parliament and choose the heads of the armed forces.

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