Zardari rejects reconciliation plan over fears of being seen as bowing to pressure

ISLAMABAD - Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari outrightly rejected the US-UK backed reconciliation formula involving Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani and ordered a crackdown on the media to stifle the lawyers’ Long March.

After returning from Iran, Zardari held a series of meetings at the Presidency with his top constitutional aides and political friends who had actually advised him to get the Sharif brothers disqualified through the courts and then slap Governor’s rule over Punjab.

They all once again advised him to take a firm stand and should not be seen someone who was bullied into falling in line.

The political crisis in the country took a plunge on Friday when the intervention of Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani during separate meetings with Zardari and Gilani appeared to have produced no breakthrough in the deadlock.

Gilani was reportedly offended after the president refused to oblige his repeated requests of taking the reconciliation route, as he was hopeful that given the US-UK and the army’s backing, Zardari would not say no to him.

One top source claimed that a determined Zardari told the Army Chief that he could think over the reconciliation formula only after March 16, when the fury of the Long March was over, The News reported.

But this offer of the president was said to have not lessened the worries of the foreign diplomats or the Army Chief who wanted some solid decisions to be announced before Monday to defuse the explosive situation.

The American and British diplomats were said to be the most disturbed people in Islamabad after the refusal of Zardari to fall in line as his refusal was said to have put the whole reconciliation plan in a jeopardy, because they had already got the required nod of Nawaz Sharif before handing over a package to Gilani to go and convince the president.

Zardari is said to have told both the surprised Prime Minister and Army Chief that he would not buy the reconciliation formula at this stage when the furious lawyers and the political forces led by political enemies were on the march towards Islamabad.

Sources claimed that Zardari told the Army Chief that he would consider these reconciliation proposals only after the date of long march was over. The sources said that after getting disappointed from the president, General Kayani straight away went to PM Gilani to, what one source termed “exchange” of their notes.

The sources said that PM Gilani and General Kayani agreed that they would hold another round of talks with Zardari as time was still left before the long marchers reach Islamabad.


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