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User Name: mohsin814
Full Name: Mohammad M Ansari
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Zardari to meet Musharraf, ask him to resign US mounting pressure on PPP leader to work with president

ISLAMABAD: (Jung News)
A concerted effort is being made by the Bush administration to persuade PPP Co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari to meet President Pervez Musharraf and develop a working relationship with him, but Mr Zardari has rejected the pressure saying he would meet Musharraf but ask him to resign.

Talking to this correspondent, Zardari confirmed on Sunday: “Many well-wishers have suggested to me to meet Musharraf in person and discuss the political problems in detail to find some solution. He was reluctant to explain the agenda of his proposed meeting with Musharraf but said: “I am hopeful that the outcome of my meeting with Musharraf will not disappoint the people of Pakistan.

These well-wishers have been emissaries of the US followed by three top US senators currently visiting Pakistan and meeting everyone who matters. The panic button in the Bush administration was pressed when Zardari criticised Musharraf as 'a relic of the past'. Two important US senators, who were in Islamabad, met him on Sunday and another, a key member of the Senate intelligence committee, would be seeing him on Monday. These US senators besides some other officials have been pressing Zardari to stop attacking Musharraf and meet him to reach some understanding on a working relationship. But at least two senators, Carl Levin and Bob Casey, were told by the PPP leader on Sunday in so many words that Musharraf was no longer part of the solution, rather he was the problem.

The US messages in the last couple of days have been focusing on Zardari saying his party should not humiliate Musharraf by impeaching him, as the PPP leader has threatened. But Zardari has taken the position that Musharraf had been totally rejected by the majority of voters in the February 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. In his interview to PTI and later to Pakistani news channels, Zardari finally opened up against Musharraf saying if he did not resign he may be impeached. It is learnt that Zardari has not only rejected the US pressure, but he has also requested the Bush administration to delay the proposed visit of the US Under-Secretary of State John Negroponte to Pakistan this week. Negroponte visited Pakistan in the last week of March, and Zardari was of the view that another visit may convey a wrong impression to the people that Negroponte was interfering in Pakistani affairs, and trying to rescue Musharraf.

The new Pakistani Ambassador to the US, Hussain Haqqani, also played an important role in convincing the Bush administration that a second visit by Negroponte in two months would be counterproductive. Haqqani will meet President Bush on June 5 in Washington and will explain the position of his leadership to the US president, who still wants to save Musharraf from public humiliation. Haqqani, it is learnt, has been told to give a commitment to Mr Bush that Pakistan will keep fighting the war against terror; the objectives of the war will remain the same though the strategy may change. He will also meet with top Democratic Party leaders and inform them that the new leadership in Pakistan cannot work with Musharraf any more. The impeachment threats by Mr Zardari, according to reliable sources, have not gone down well with the Pakistan Army high command as well. Discreet messages have been sent to Mr Zardari to “resolve all the issues through dialogue. The fear in political circles was 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.

In 1993, the then President Ghulam Ishaq Khan had developed differences with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and in the resulting situation the then Army Chief, General Abdul Waheed Kakar, was forced to intervene and both President Ishaq Khan and PM Nawaz Sharif had to resign. The present high command of the army wants to avoid a similar situation. It is expected that Asif Ali Zardari will now start his first ever direct dialogue with Musharraf in the coming few days just to avoid that very difficult situation. Despite his recent hard-hitting statement against Pervez Musharraf, the PPP Co-chairperson is planning to meet Musharraf, which will be a big political risk. The date and time of his meeting have not been finalised yet. A close aide of Asif Ali Zardari claimed: “Our Co-chairperson will suggest to President Musharraf to step down in the larger interest of Pakistan. To consolidate his position, Zardari will be making serious efforts to strengthen his coalition. Sharif and Zardari will then try to resolve the issue of the deposed judges as quickly as possible. The three-year term proposed in the PPP package for the Chief Justice could be extended to five years, as proposed by Nawaz Sharif. Both the PPP and PML-N leaders seem to agree on this limit. Thus they would give deposed chief justice Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry up to 2010 to stay as head of the Supreme Court. Zardari is already on record as saying: “Nawaz Sharif is my elder brother, I will not let down him and I am sure he will not let me down. Both of us will down our common enemies.
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