Archive for the ‘Bhutto’ Category

Pakistan: President Diminished, Rival Triumphant

March 16, 2009

The promised reinstatement of Pakistan‘s chief justice defused a protest movement threatening the U.S.-allied government, but it could still spell trouble for the country’s struggling president.

The army is said to have directed President Asif Ali Zardari to defuse the developing showdown with opposition leader Nawaz Sharif and lawyers leading a column of protesters toward the capital Sunday night.

But by yielding to demands to restore judges fired by former military ruler and U.S. ally Pervez Musharraf, Zardari may have strengthened democracy in the nuclear-armed nation as it faces daunting security and economic challenges.

“Never before in Pakistan’s political history have you had people standing up for the rule of law, for the constitution,” said Nasim Zehra, a political and defense analyst. “Civil society has won out.”

Musharraf ousted Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry in 2007 after he blocked a privatization deal, investigated the fate of hundreds of people allegedly held incognito by security agencies, and even questioned the legality of the ex-general’s rule.

But the move backfired as lawyers, rights activists, liberal media pundits — as well as the general’s political opponents — mounted a dogged campaign for an independent judiciary that turned the dour, mustachioed judge into an unlikely democratic icon.

The very same constellation has now humbled Zardari.

The slaying of former premier Benazir Bhutto catapulted her Pakistan People’s Party into power last year. Zardari, who took over his wife’s party and became president, forged a coalition with Sharif. The alliance collapsed as the two wrangled for power and Zardari reneged on a pledge to restore Chaudhry.

Sharif joined the opposition, but last month the Supreme Court ruled that he and his brother Shahbaz were inelegible for elected office. Zardari then dismissed the government Shahbaz led in Punjab, the most powerful Pakistani province.

Nawaz Sharif — who defied house arrest to participate in Sunday’s demonstration — accused Zardari of a power grab and urged his supporters to join lawyers and other activists planning to march on the capital, re-energizing the movement.

Zardari’s tough line also opened rifts in his party, which could weaken his grip and force him to pass on to Parliament some of the sweeping presidential powers accumulated by Musharraf, analysts said. He has pledged to give up the right to dissolve the assemblies and fire the government — but taken no concrete steps to do it.

“Zardari has come out badly bruised,” said Zahid Hussain, a Pakistani commentator. “He has managed to survive, but his power has certainly been curtailed.”

Sharif, in contrast, has emerged triumphant.

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Pakistan says no war with India amid calls for calm

December 27, 2008

Pakistan again said on Saturday that it does not want a war with India, as the international community tried to defuse tensions between the nuclear-armed neighbours after Islamabad moved troops to the border.

The United States and Russia led calls for calm in both Islamabad and New Delhi in a bid to improve ties that have deteriorated in the month since the Mumbai attacks, which India has blamed on Pakistan-based militants.

File image of a Pakistani soldier

File image of a Pakistani soldier

By Susan Stumme

“We have lost our people — we do not talk about war, we do not talk about vengeance,” Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari said in a speech on the first anniversary of the assassination of his wife, former premier Benazir Bhutto.

“Dialogue is our biggest arsenal,” he told ministers and lawmakers in remarks broadcast live on state television, saying negotiations were ” the solution to the problem of the region .”

But Zardari warned India not to push Islamabad too hard for action against extremist groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba, which New Delhi says masterminded the attacks in Mumbai that left 172 people dead.

“We have non-state actors. Yes, they are forcing an agenda on us,” the Pakistani leader said.


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Pakistan: Mourners Honour Bhutto

December 27, 2008

Tens of thousands of Pakistanis have gathered at the mausoleum of former PM Benazir Bhutto to mark the first anniversary of her assassination.

Ceremonies in Garhi Khuda Bakhsh, southern Pakistan, are expected to include prayers, poetry and speeches.

Mrs Bhutto was killed in a suicide bomb and gun attack in Rawalpindi, near Islamabad, after an election rally.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon says he expects an independent inquiry into her death to be set up soon.

The memorial service coincides with a sharp increase in tensions between India and Pakistan, over the alleged role of Pakistani militants in the Mumbai attacks.

Heavy security

Local police officials in Garhi Khuda Bakhsh told news agencies that about 150,000 people had travelled to the site.

However, crowds thronged into the mausoleum and massed around Mrs Bhutto’s graveside to touch her tomb.


People from all over Pakistan have travelled by train, bus, car and even on foot to the Bhutto family mausoleum.

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Democratic Pakistan Limps On

December 25, 2008

Pakistan returned to civilian rule shortly after the assassination of Benazir Bhutto a year ago, but the nascent democracy is now caught in a web of crises that is threatening its future, analysts say.

The government led by President Asif Ali Zardari, Bhutto’s widower, came to power with significant public support, but many say he has not lived up to the promises made by their slain leader before her death in a suicide attack.

“He seems to have lost some of the popular goodwill because the government appears to be ineffective in addressing the problems that have hit the common people most,” political analyst Hasan Askari told AFP.

By Rana Jawad

Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari. Pakistan returned to civilian ... 
Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari. Pakistan returned to civilian rule shortly after the assassination of Benazir Bhutto a year ago, but the nascent democracy is now caught in a web of crises that is threatening its future, analysts say.(AFP/File/Sezayi Erken)

Pakistan’s troubles have worsened in the past 12 months with more than 50 suicide attacks killing civilians, severe economic woes for the government, and high food prices and regular power shortages hitting ordinary families hard.

At the same time, militancy in the lawless tribal areas and simmering tensions with India have been accompanied by political infighting between the ruling Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and its former coalition partner.

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