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?
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.
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.