WASHINGTON: The intensifying political battle between the pro-American president and the main opposition leader is shaping up as a potential crisis for the Obama administration as it tries to focus the government on fighting Al- Qaeda and Taliban insurgency here.
According to New York Times report, the domestic struggle will almost certainly deflect attention from that fight as President Asif Ali Zardari and his archrival, former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, clash and as street protests persist, politicians and analysts said.
It could also result in shifting political alliances, including new opportunities for the religious right that would be inimical to Washington’s interests, and even serve to make the Pakistani military restive for power again if the situation continued to worsen, they said.
The crisis was set off by a Supreme Court ruling on Wednesday that bars Sharif and his brother, Shahbaz, from elected office. The decision was widely interpreted in Pakistan as a raw political maneuver engineered by Zardari to diminish the power of the two popular opposition figures.
Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani described the ruling as damaging to democracy. A daily newspaper published by a major supporter of Zardari’s said the resulting political battle could be so debilitating that nuclear-armed Pakistan could end up in the ranks of failed states, alongside Somalia and Zimbabwe.
“The two parties are going for the kill,” the newspaper reported “As in the past they might both come a cropper,” it added, suggesting that each would lose out if the military stepped in again.
Spokesmen for Zardari denied the ruling was politically driven, and said that Zardari deplored the Sharifs’ disqualification from public office. But they said that Nawaz Sharif’s intemperate statements after the ruling and the street protests made it imperative for the president to impose executive rule in Punjab, Pakistan’s most populous and most important province, where Shahbaz Sharif served as chief minister. “After the demonstrations it became obvious the province could not be run in accordance with the constitution,” said Farhatullah Babar, the presidential spokesman.-SANA