Reflecting the political machinations in Pakistan, President Asif Ali Zardari is reportedly in talks with rival PML-Q to oust Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, who along with opposition leader Nawaz Sharif want the President's sweeping powers to be scrapped.
Smarting from his capitulation to a lawyers' protest, Zardari and PML-Q are believed to have agreed to form an alliance to deprive Gilani of his post, a media report said, in signs of shifting political equations in Pakistan.
Gilani appeared to target Zardari when he pledged to "change the system", which gives sweeping powers to the President, by strengthening Parliament and hoped to win back PML-N leader Sharif, a former ally and two-time premier.
"We are committed to changing the system," Gilani told the 'Wall Street Journal' in an interview published today.
The Prime Minister vowed to return to Parliament the authority it had lost in 2002 when former military ruler Pervez Musharraf gave President powers to dismiss Parliament and Prime Minister. "My main endeavour is to end the politics of confrontation."
"I am sure we can work with Nawaz Sharif in strengthening the democratic process," Gilani said. "We have to return to parliamentary democracy on the lines of Westminster."
At a news conference in Lahore yesterday, Sharif said the government should scrap the 17th amendment to the constitution that gives the President sweeping powers to dismiss the Prime Minister and dissolve parliament.
The News daily reported that Gilani could be the "first victim of Zardari's "extreme anger and vengeance".
The paper quoted sources as saying that Zardari was unhappy with the "deepening relationship" between Gilani and PML-N leaders Nawaz and Shahbaz Sharif after the premier "emerged a peacemaker and acquired the role of a sane adviser to the President" in the recent standoff on the deposed judges.
The new strategy envisages the President issuing an ordinance to bar PML-Q dissidents in Punjab province from extending support to the PML-N to form a government in the province. Once Punjab is under its control, the ruling Pakistan People's Party will join the PML-Q League to form a coalition at the centre,
The framework for this strategy was finalised in secret meetings between Zardari and PML-Q leaders Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi and Moonis Elahi. However, presidential spokesman Farhatullah Babar has denied such meetings were held.
The newspaper quoted sources as saying that the Chaudhry cousins had told Zardari they would extend cooperation to the PPP in Punjab and at the Centre. The federal government is considering some sort of legislation to deal with the 34-member group of PML-Q dissidents in Punjab.
At his press conference in Lahore, Nawaz Sharif said the constitution should be restored to its position in October 1999, when a PML-N government was removed by former military ruler Pervez Musharraf.