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History repeats itself as Prez, PM rift deepens

world Updated: Feb 04, 2009 23:55 IST
Kamal Siddiqi
Kamal Siddiqi
Hindustan Times
History repeats itself as Prez

Pakistan prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani seems to be in a defiant mood. This week he sacked the head of the Task Force on Employment.

This man was a personal friend of President Asif Ali Zardari. Not only that, Gilani also dissolved the body itself which had been formed to provide employment but was criticised in the media on the grounds that it would also give jobs to party workers.

His move comes at a time when there are rumours of friction between the President and the Prime Minister. On Tuesday, Gilani also ordered transfers of top bureacrats in the capital for the second time in two weeks, in what is being seen as a move to assert his control over the bureaucracy.

Earlier, the Pakistan PM has said in a press conference on his return from Davos that he was the Prime Minister of the country and it is to him that all government officials should report.

He said that there should be no confusion on the line of reporting. Giving an example of the confusion in some minds, he told reporters that he had given Pakistan’s High Commissioner to the UK, Wajid Shamsul Hasan, a warning over the fact that he had spoken out of turn to the media. Hasan has spoken to the Indian media in London on the issue of the ongoing report being prepared by Pakistan’s investigation agencies over the dossier given by India on the Mumbai attacks.

There are some in Islamabad who are saying that the increasing interference of Zardari and officials close to him in matters of state have irked Gilani. At the back of all this is the growing debate over the powers of the President under which he can sack an elected government.

On his swearing in, Zardari had promised to do away with those powers. But now it seems that he has no intention to do so. At a time when Pakistan is facing a series of challenges both internally as well as from abroad, this turf war will only make matters worse, say observers.

Many still cannot forget the summary dismissal of General Durrani, also known as “General D”, as National Security Advisor by PM Gilani over his remarks on the Ajmal Kasab case. They say that was a move taken by Gilani to assert his powers as he seemed to be missing till then in the Pakistani response to the Mumbai attack charges.

The opposition PML-N party has already criticised the meddling of unelected advisors in the affairs of the state.

This reference is to Rehman Malik, the de-facto interior minister, who allegiance is clearly towards Zardari.

Others complain that the Presidency has its finger in every pie at a time when he should remain neutral. In this new battle, say many, it is the functioning of the government that will weaken. Historically, this has always been a problem in the country where a powerful President has overtaken the role of the elected PM.