Zardari under pressure to meet Musharraf
The US is making a concerted effort to persuade Asif Ali Zardari, co-chair of the ruling Pakistan People's Party (PPP), to meet President Pervez Musharraf and develop a working relationship with him.
"Many well-wishers have suggested to me to meet Musharraf in person and discuss the political problems in detail to find some solution," The News Monday quoted Zardari as saying.
"I am hopeful that the outcome of my meeting with Musharraf will not disappoint the people of Pakistan," he replied enigmatically when asked what the agenda of the meeting would be.
The well-wishers, The News said, have been emissaries of the US, followed by two top US senators currently visiting Pakistan and "everyone who matters".
The Bush administration apparently pressed the panic button after Zardari, in a recent media interview, termed Musharraf "a relic of the past" who had no place in the new Pakistani dispensation.
Zardari repeated the line to senators Carl Levin and Bob Casey who met him Sunday, saying "in so many words that Musharraf was no longer part of the solution, rather he was the problem", The News said.
The US message has been that the PPP should not humiliate Musharraf by impeaching him as Zardari has threatened to do.
Zardari has countered this by saying that Musharraf had been totally rejected by the majority of voters in the Feb 18 polls and the Bush administration should respect the people's verdict.
"Until a few days ago, Zardari had been working hard to take Musharraf along in the name of national reconciliation. But he faced a lot of criticism and his party was dubbed as Musharraf's 'A' team rather than his 'B' team," The News said.
Thus, he has not only rejected the US pressure on him but has also urged the Bush administration to delay the proposed visit of US Under Secretary of State John Negroponte to Pakistan later this week.
Negroponte had visited Pakistan in the last week of March and Zardari is of the view that another visit may convey an impression to the people that the US is interfering in Pakistan's affairs and attempting to rescue Musharraf.
Meanwhile, the threats to impeach Musharraf "have not gone down well" with the Pakistan Army high command, with "discreet messages" being sent to Zardari to "resolve all the issues through dialogue", The News said
"The fear in political circles is that a cornered Musharraf might use his constitutional powers to dissolve the National Assembly. He is still the supreme commander of the armed forces and can order the army chief to implement his orders against the elected government," it added.
In 1993, then president Ghulam Ishaq Khan had developed differences with prime minister Nawaz Sharif, prompting the army chief, General Abdul Waheed Kakar to intervene and as a result of which both the president and the prime minister had to resign.
"The present army high command wants to avoid a similar situation," The News noted.