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Zardari says Musharraf to be replaced by PPP member
Afzal Khan writes from Islamabad

PPP co-chairman Asif Zardari’s statement that a member of his party would replace Musharraf as the President of Pakistan has triggered speculation among political circles that Zardari has broached the idea of himself assuming the office.

A prominent TV anchor Nusrat Javeed disclosed in his daily programme ‘Bolta Pakistan’ that Zardari has discussed his candidature with diplomats and others who have been seeking information about the prospective President. In a recent meeting with US ambassador Anne Peterson, Zardari was asked who would replace Musharraf if he steps down. “What about me?” the anchor quoted Zardari as posing a counter question.

However, talking to senior journalists in Lahore on Tuesday, Zardari said he wants Musharraf to quit but he is not a candidate for the post.

PPP co-chairman’s statement also evoked a cautious response from the second major coalition partner, the Nawaz Sharif faction of the Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N). Two senior leaders of the party, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan and Javed Hashmi, obliquely pointed out that the nomination of the President would be made by all coalition partners and not one party.

“It is premature to think about the new President until General Musharraf is ousted,” Nisar said at a hurriedly called news conference here. Hashmi hinted that the top two offices of President and Prime Minister could not go to one component of the coalition.

Political observers here said Zardari may also find it difficult to receive a nod from the establishment, particularly the military, which may not like him to occupy either of the two top offices because of his image and past reputation.

“In Pakistani politics, the President has to be a nominee of the army,” said a senior analyst.

A leading columnist and member of National Assembly Ayaz Amir, while addressing the house said Zardari’s desire to wield power behind the scene by acting as Sonia Gandhi is misplaced. “There is no room for Sonia Gandhis in Pakistani politics,” he observed.

He said Zardari should become member of the National Assembly and get himself elected as Prime Minister. “At present we have a diarchy where Zardari wields all the power while the Prime Minister simply carries out his orders.

This is an exact replica of the Musharraf era when the President appropriated all powers while the Prime Minister was merely a figure head. Such a dichotomy is extremely dangerous and has caused uncertainty and instability in Pakistan,” he said.

He added that the person who wields power must also be held responsible for his actions.



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