Prime Minister Zardari? President Sharif?

Posted on April 20, 2008
Filed Under >Adil Najam, People, Politics
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Adil Najam

As one reads the news from Pakistan and looks at the picture below, one cannot but help wonder what are these three gentlemen thinking; about each other and also about their own future?

Asif Zardari Yousuf Gillani Nawaz Sharif

In a land where speculation replaces analysis and conspiracy outdoes strategy, word is ripe that the eventual “unsteady” state might be one where we have a Prime Minister named Asif Zardari and a President named Nawaz Sharif? Could that really happen? And what where would that leave Yousuf Raza Gillani? What does Gen. Kiyani have to say about any of this? And what about Gen. Musharraf? He seems to have been relegated for the moment to attending cricket matches and lighting Olympic torches but one cannot image that to be a permanent occupation for him.

Noises from Islamabad seem to suggest that the musical chairs view of Pakistan politics is becoming dominant again. With the bye-elections around the corner, this is only to be expected.

According to The News, “Asif Ali Zardari has announced that he will be taking part in the coming by-elections and, if need be, he can become the prime minister.” The way this and other news items are worded, one wonders exactly what is meant by “if need be”? However, when one reads and listens to the actual BBC Urdu interview with Asif Zardari it seems quite clear that he is NOT (at least, not yet) stating any intent to become Prime Minister.

Asif Zardari was, in this case, responding to a somewhat badgering interviewer who first asked if the Party Chairperson should become Prime Minister; at which Asif Zardari responded that no, this was not necessary. On a follow-up question he seems to say that the Party Chairperson could become Prime Minister without in anyway signaling his own intent to do so. In listening to the interview and how the questions were phrased, it is not clear to me whether he could or should have responded differently. This does not mean that a “Prime Minister Zardari” may not become a reality. It does mean that the current spate of headlines on this should be taken less seriously than I first too them.

Of course, Aitizaz Ahsan has also filed for a ticket for the bye-elections and – if given the ticket and elected – one has to wonder just what role the PPP woudl actually give him or he would take. His stature in Pakistan politics has changed greatly over the last year and it is notquite clear just how accomodating the PPP may be of this new stature and the expectations it raises.

Meanwhile, the ambitions are much more clear on the PML-N side. Nawaz Sharif, Shahbaz Sharif and Hamza Shahbaz are all ready to file their nomination papers and have made quite clear that once elected they will run the show – at least in the Punjab – directly. The issue, of course, is that at least Nawaz Sharif’s aspirations have to be greater than just the Punjab.

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31 responses to “Prime Minister Zardari? President Sharif?”

  1. Anwar says:

    And so… so we thought we will outsmart uncle Sam! So far the script written in Washington is getting played to the finest details…

  2. faraz Waseem says:

    Asif Zardari these days believe

    “Take it easy! There is enough for every one ”

    I think there are enough bones in foreign exchange, these guys can eats for 2-3 years but energy and food crisis will become worst in 2-3 years. In few years awam will be on roads again for change.

  3. bhitai says:

    When Yusuf Raza Gilani was being sentenced by a judge for 10 years or so in jail, Asif Zardari agitated by yelling ‘you are sentencing the future *president* of Pakistan’.. This prophecy might come true if mr 10% wishes to become the next PM. Gilani will simply be ‘promoted’ as the President. Nawaz is not interested in the useless and impotent position of the President. In all likelihood, he’s waiting for the mid-term elections..

  4. Daktar says:

    TO your question: “what are these three gentlemen thinking; about each other and also about their own future?”

    Asif Zardari is thinking: “Let them sit up there as long as I am calling the shots!”

    Nawaz Sharif is thinking: “Let him think he is calling the shots, as long as he does what I want him to do!”

    Yousuf Reza Gillani is thinking: “Yaar, kahan phanss gaya houn mein!”

  5. SAEED says:

    Anwar, what are you talking about? What American plan?

    Just tbhrowibg out a baseless conspiracy theory is very Pakistani but not very useful. I guess its too easy to blame all our problems on these saazish ideas. Hum becharey Amreeka kay maarey!

  6. Ghazala Khan says:

    The other one, who could be the next President is not in the picture; may be the deposed CJP.

  7. Adil Najam says:

    A senior colleague, and someone whose political acumen I have great respect for, has alerted me to the original BBC Urdu interview from which Asif Zardari’s statement above has been derived. The original story in Urdu can be viewed here:
    http://tinyurl.com/3hbh3d
    The audio recording of the interview can be heard here:
    http://tinyurl.com/4avjp7

    In listening to the interview it is indeed clear that Asif Zardari is NOT saying what most Pakistani news report (and BBC Urdu’s own headline) seem to be suggesting. He was asked if the Party Chairman should automatically become Prime Minister; he responded that this was not necessary. He was then asked if this meant he was categorically promising that as Chairperson he would not become Prime Minister; and he responds that the Chairperson can become Prime Minister if needed. However, there is nothing in the tone or the substance of the interview that suggests that this was a statement of intent on his part. It seems much more of a case of a journalist wanting and “creating” a headline.

    Many have been impressed by the tone and substance of what Zardari has been saying and I continue to believe that he should be afforded every chance to prove that this new look is real and lasting. I certainly hope that it is.

    The discussion on whether he will or will not assume the Prime Ministerial office remains a real and important discussion, but on this one and now I think we need to give him the benefit of the doubt. I think that those in the media, and those like us who live off the media, should also do the same.

    (Some slight changes in the post have been made to reflect the above).

  8. SAEED says:

    adil najam, thank you for that candid comment and assessment. I also just heard the interview and agreevwith you entirely.

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