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Pak left guessing who’s in charge, Prez or PM?

world Updated: Jan 08, 2009 23:49 IST
Kamal Siddiqi

Who is in charge in Pakistan? Is it President Asif Ali Zardari, PM Yusuf Raza Gilani or the army-intelligence establishment? That’s the question Pakistanis seem to be asking after Gilani summarily dismissed National Security Advisor (NSA) Mahmud Ali Durrani on Wednesday over the Ajmal Kasab nationality issue.

Defence analyst and commentator General Talat Masood (retd) told HT that the developments only pointed to a fundamental flaw in Pakistan’s decision making process.

“Let us not mince words. The problem is that we have a parliamentary system, but an all-powerful president is running the country with the help of an inner circle.”

Pakistan, Masood warned, “can’t go on like this.”

“We don't know who is in charge,” said Ayesha Siddiqa, who writes on defence, stressing that the Zardari-Gilani combine faced other challenges like an “invisible government.”

At the same time, analysts argued that the current confusion revealed that political forces and the establishment were at loggerheads.

Durrani, meanwhile, remained defiant, saying that he hadn’t received any notification relieving him as NSA.

There’s also a growing feeling that relations between the President and PM may be under a cloud. “I have been told by my sources that Zardari did know that Durrani was going to make the statement,” author Zahid Husain argued.

Journalist Mariana Babar felt the PM was upset because it was he who wanted to make the statement that Kasab was a Pakistani.

The Pakistan Foreign Office, which was left out in the cold, doesn’t appear to be part of the new equation.

On Wednesday, while foreign secretary Salman Bashir was contradicting the claim of Kasab being a Pakistani, information minister Sherry Rehman and security advisor Mahmud Durrani were confirming that he was.

Politician and former cricketer Imran Khan believed that the confusion arose from a lack of coordination. “It is a national disgrace and heads should roll,” said Khan.