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Zardari to be Pakistani PM, father to replace him?

There could be more political churning in the offing in Pak with Prez Asif Ali Zardari likely to replace Yousuf Raza Gilani as PM.

world Updated: Dec 29, 2008 16:12 IST

There could be more political churning in the offing in Pakistan with President Asif Ali Zardari likely to replace Yousuf Raza Gilani as prime minister and transferring all presidential powers to the prime minister by annulling the constitutional amendments former military dictator Pervez Musharraf had effected, a senior member of the ruling coalition says.

The politician said that Zardari has taken this decision after a sustained campaign by some members of the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) that he has failed to implement what is being described as assassinated party chief Benazir Bhutto's political will.

The PPP leader, requesting anonymity, said that Zardari is likely to install his father Hakim Ali Zardari or some low profile PPP sympathiser as president to avoid any controversy.

"Within the PPP, there are people who convinced Zardari to become prime minister and install his father as president," said the leading politician, adding that if a mother daughter duo can be prime minister and president in Sri Lanka and brothers could be prime minister and chief minister in Pakistan, a father son duo could also occupy the top positions in this country.

Though PPP leaders officially deny any rift between Zardari and Gilani, insiders say that differences have reached the breaking point.

"Gilani has plainly refused to obey Zardari's orders, saying everything would be done on merit," said another party leader.

The changeover is likely after the elections to the Senate, the upper house of parliament, in March, when the PPP will be able to consolidate its position from its present nine to about half of the house of 100.

Presently, the PPP and its allies lack a two thirds majority in either house of parliament that is required to annul the controversial amendments made by Musharraf to consolidate powers in the presidency. But they are likely to get the numbers after the March polls.

The crisis within PPP and its differences with the Punjab government led by Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) has created severe problems for the Zardari run government that is already shaken by the international pressure to curb terrorism, particularly after the Nov 26 Mumbai attack.

Towards this, there are rumours that Zardari has given the go ahead to his party in Punjab to make contacts with the former ruling PML Quaid to move a no confidence motion against Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif and form a PPP led government in Pakistan's largest province.

The PML-N and PPP have been at loggerheads since the February general elections when Zardari declined to fulfill his commitment to restore the Supreme Court judges that Musharraf had sacked after declaring an emergency last November. This had resulted in the PML-N pulling its ministers out of the government, even as it abstained from voting on the budget.

The tension in Punjab aggravated with the appointment of Governor Salman Taseer, who from day one started criticising Shahbaz Sharif and his elder brother and former prime minister Nawaz Sharif who also leads the PML-N.

Zardari chose his wife and former prime minister Benazir Bhutto's death anniversary to hit out at the Sharif brothers and went to the extent of saying that the PML-N was on power in Punjab because of him.

On Sunday, Taseer, who openly says that he was appointed governor to safeguard the PPP's interests, met Punjab's former chief minister Pervez Elahi in an apparent move to win his PML-Q's support to move a no confidence motion against Sharif.

Elahi, who parted ways with Sharif after the 1999 military takeover and supported Musharraf's rule, has given his consent to join the PPP in Punjab but "under certain conditions", said one of his close aides.

The aide told IANS that Elahi wants his son Moonis to be the next Punjab chief minister with 40 of his partymen as ministers.

"The PPP with limited options is likely to accept this condition," said the aide, who claimed that Elahi will be able to win back support of party's disgrunteled elements who are not siding with Sharifs.

First Published: Dec 29, 2008 16:06 IST