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Saturday, March 14, 2009

High noon in Islamabad

Thu, 12 Mar 2009 06:04:11 GMT | PressTV
By Kian Mokhtari

Well at least nobody can get nostalgic, sigh, and reminisce about the days when politics was clean because politics has always been particularly nasty business. Pakistan's Muslim League-N Chief Nawaz Sharif, has just openly challenged President Asif Ali Zardari in what can be described as gun-slinging politics.

Rousing the masses to join in a nationwide protest against the government, Sharif told thousands of his supporters in the northern town of Abbottabad, "Allah has put the decision to change the fate of Pakistan in your hands. It is possible in seven days, even three days. These conspirators will run away with their tails between their legs."

Sharif accuses Zaradri of political skullduggery after the Supreme Court banned Sharif and his brother Shahbaz from ever holding elected office. Sharif has been mobilizing support for a four-day march on Islamabad since the court ruling on February 25.

Zardari's problems have been compounded by his refusal to reinstall some of the lawyers removed by his predecessor Pervez Musharraf in 2007. Although the ruling party has restored most of the judges in question, a powerful few, including a former Supreme Court chief justice have not been given back their seats. Zardari is rumored to fear those judges could move to bring back corruption charges against him. The charges were dropped by Musharraf when the former general sought a political alliance before last year's elections.

Anyone who has ever followed the "jungle" of Pakistani politics could tell you that in Pakistan any president wishing to hang on to power, should avoid falling out with two groups of professionals: lawyers and architects.

Pakistan's government has made what may prove another mistake; it has rounded up hundreds of opposition activists and banned protests in two provinces to disrupt the anti-government march on the capital. Police has arrested a large number of opposition workers in Punjab and Sindh provinces apparently "to maintain public order."

If the crackdown continues, America could find itself in deep water. The US would like to be seen as supporting a democratic Pakistani government that is also inclined to join the US in the battle against the Taliban and al-Qaida militants.

Sharif is considered closer to Islamic parties and conservative factions and is not particularly bothered about the US war effort.

The deepening anti-American sentiments in Pakistan, is considered a major threat by the Obama administration in the war against the Taliban. In a desperate bid to distance itself from the recent arrests and crack-downs by the Zardari government, US State Department spokesman Robert Wood has said America supports "freedom of speech, of expression, of assembly in Pakistan."

On many occasions in Pakistan's past, when similar circumstances have arisen, the US has opted to brush aside all the time-consuming political wrangling and back military strongmen instead. It is almost as if the US does not recognize the credibility of Pakistan's democratic due processes. But in the present circumstances another such move by the US may prove disastrous for its regional diplomatic efforts.

But there are voices of reason in Pakistan.
Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has met with the army chief, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani. And although no details of their discussion have been released, many experts believe that the meeting was the premier's attempt at canceling out Pakistani military interference egged on by a very nervous and insecure USA.

Following the meeting, Gilani urged politicians to show political maturity. He said, "What we think is important is that the various parties try to resolve their differences within the political system of Pakistan in accordance with its constitution."

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