Pakistan President Zardari's nine political lives
There were predictions in the last few months of 2009 that Pakistan's President Zardari was finished. But he has defended himself aggressively in recent days and won back some political ground.
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Although there were predictions in the last few months of 2009 that he was finished, Zardari has defended himself aggressively in recent days and won some political allies. The news media and the judiciary had appeared to be closing in on him, but in a world of political shadow boxing, many analysts and politicians think that Pakistan’s powerful military has been behind the drive to force the president out of office.
“I think he is fighting back admirably,” said Abida Hussain, a senior member of Zardari’s Pakistan People's Party. “He threw down the gauntlet, fair and square, and the conspirators, if any, seem to be backing off.”
The confrontation had sparked fears that the army, which has ruled Pakistan for most of its existence, would intervene again, perhaps to force fresh elections when the country is under pressure from the Obama administration to launch an offensive in North Waziristan, a vital Pakistani refuge for al Qaida and the Taliban.
The army chief, Gen. Ashfaq Kayani, has let it be known repeatedly that he’s not interested in getting involved in politics, but the Pakistan People's Party, the country's largest political party, remains wary. Under pressure from Washington, Zardari and the country’s civilian leaders have pushed the military for greater action against Islamic extremists.
“If you have the civilians and the military at loggerheads, it creates a more confusing picture for the Americans, an extra layer of uncertainty,” said Cyril Almeida, a newspaper columnist for Dawn, a Pakistani daily newspaper. “And the fight in Pakistan is moving from counterinsurgency to the more delicate phase of counter-terrorism, for which you need co-ordination between agencies and between the civilian and military apparatus.”
The importance of North Waziristan, in northwest Pakistan, was underscored Wednesday by another US missile strike in the area, which is a stronghold for the Haqqani network, considered a close ally of Al Qaeda and the most dangerous insurgent group in Afghanistan. It was the fifth such strike since a suicide bomber killed a group of CIA officers in the adjacent Afghan province of Khost last week. According to news reports, 12 people were killed in the latest strike.