Govt options: Quell sit-in, rush in caretakers

President Asif Ali Zardari
Govt options: Quell sit-in, rush in caretakers

ISLAMABAD: President Asif Ali Zardari has been advised by his close aides to address the nation on television regarding the present political scenario and announce a caretaker setup acceptable to all, but only after doing away with Dr Tahirul Qadri’s sit-in, it was learnt.

The top PPP leadership is convinced the Qadri-led march and sit-in is a foreign script and its coalition partners like PML-Q and MQM are hand in glove in this effort, a top presidential aide hinted. “The two major coalition parties without which PPP government cannot survive are playing hide and seek with us, settling the score of the grievances at this critical juncture,” he added. “We are, however, closely monitoring the military establishment,” he added, stating categorically the government had so far not felt any wrong signal from the garrison.

Holed up in the Bilawal House Karachi for the last one month or so, President Zardari is reportedly weighing all the available limited options at his disposal and is still reluctant to adopt any hawkish line, fearing major coalition partners, PML-Q and MQM, might rock the boat of his minority coalition government in such an eventuality. “President Zardari and his aides have serious suspicions about the way PML-Q leaders are acting hand in glove with Dr Qadri. In the case of a hawkish stance by the PPP to quell the sit-in, the PML-Q might tender resignations from the cabinet and MQM could follow suit,” the top presidential aide revealed to The Nation on anonymity.

“President Zardari is also considering options to quell Dr Qadri’s sit-in through force, but will weigh its pros and cons till Wednesday evening after evaluating the morale and attendance of the sit-in,” he added. The action by an undecided PPP co chairperson is necessary in the backdrop of seven-point demands by Tahreek-e-Insaaf Chairman Imran Khan, topping all immediate resignation of Presdient Asif Zardari. There is an overwhelming impression in the PPP and PML-N ranks that the fear of losing media and public spotlight to Dr Qadri’s bravado as well as a risky effort and alleged prompting from the military establishment has compelled Khan to up ant.

Imran’s demand for Zardari’s resignation and the threat of another long march in case a caretaker government acceptable to all is not set up is perceived by the ruling coalition as a signal from the military establishment that in case Qadri’s effort fizzles out, another potent political force will be waiting in the wings. “PML-N top leadership has conveyed support to the PPP government even if Dr Qadri’s sit in is crushed through force,” a government official said, adding it was now up to the PPP leadership to act on the issue. Despite this support from the ally turned-political rival, the PPP leadership thinks it will take a lot of efforts by both the parties to be on a single page, especially in the wake of months-old tensions and misgivings on many issues.

Meanwhile, some PPP federal and provincial ministers have also conveyed their annoyance to President Zardari and Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf over the way Interior Minister Rehman Malik has dealt with Qadri’s long march, allowing the marchers to occupy the heart of Islamabad at D-Chowk – a stone’s throw away from the presidency and the parliament. Malik has been the anchorperson throughout the PPP tenure to deal with the MQM through his personal rapport with Muttahida’s London-based Quaid, Altaf Hussain.

Recently, he was also assigned with the task to deal with Dr Taahirul Qadri’s long march. But influential PPP ministers and leaders are raising a big question on the way their fellow federal minister dealt with the long march. Some also blame him for giving a breathing space to Qadri since Monday night. Bail for Prime MinisterTop presidential aides are also contemplating of an option to secure pre-arrest bail for Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf to end the uncertainty in government and political circles, it was reliably learnt.

“The unofficial advice given recently by top NAB officials to the government to secure a pre-arrest bail for the prime minister was ignored, so the government landed in the present mess,” an aide to the premier revealed, playing down the stance taken by Law Minister Farooq H Naek who told a news channel Tuesday night that the apex court had not named the premier in the order. “NAB Chief Fasih Bokhari is in a mess. He has been summoned by the Supreme Court in person on Thursday. He needs face saving to come out of the present mess,” he added. – Nation