Thursday, February 21, 2008
Mush begins backdoor politics, tries to befriend Zardari
Islamabad: Pervez Musharraf may be down after his hand-picked ruling party PML-Q was thrashed in the general elections, but the beleaguered President is still exploring options in a bid to hold on to power.
While he has clearly ruled out any plan to resign, the former general is now trying out ways to build bridges with both Nawaz Sharif's PML-N and Asif Ali Zardari's Pakistan People's Party.
The PPP, which has emerged the single-largest party by bagging 90 seats in the National Assembly, and PML(N) — which has 70 seats — are now in talks in a bid to cobble up a coalition government after the polls threw up a hung Assembly.
On Tuesday, the Pakistani President appeared to be trying to mend ties with Nawaz Sharif after he said he was willing to work with the former prime minister. But at the same time, Musharraf reportedly sent his aides to Asif Ali Zardari to tell him not to join hands with PML-N.
Musharraf's men reportedly even discussed possible prime ministerial candidates from the PPP. The new development came barely hours before a crucial meeting between the two victorious Opposition leaders, which is scheduled for Thursday.
Dawn News channel said Musharraf's aides met Zardari on Tuesday for discussion on the formation of the next government, their first contact since the February 18 general election.
Quoting official sources, Dawn News said Musharraf's close aides, including National Security Council Secretary Tariq Aziz, met Zardari in Islamabad and urged him not to holds talks with the PML-N on forming a government at the centre.
The PPP and PML-N have separately made their stands clear that they are not keen on forging an alliance with the PML-Q, the party which backs Musharraf and was routed in the polls.
But Musharraf's aides and Zardari reportedly even discussed the names of the PPP's prime ministerial candidates. The government team favoured PPP vice-chairman Makhdoom Amin Fahim, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, the president of the Punjab unit of the PPP, and senior party leader Yusuf Raza Gilani, the sources said.
Zardari had earlier met Aziz at least once in the run-up to the polls. PPP leaders were not immediately available for comments on the meeting between Zardari and Musharraf's aides.