Sunday, March 15, 2009

How Long Can President Zardari Survive?

The humiliating retreat by the deeply unpopular President of Pakistan, Mr. Asif Ali Zardari, on the question of restoring Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry is reminiscent of a similar debacle by his equally unpopular predecessor, former President Musharraf, in 2007. Both leaders seriously miscalculated the public outrage against their actions. In addition to mass protests on the streets, both men had to face tremendous pressures by foreign powers, including Americans and Saudis, as well as strong private rebuke by the ultimate arbiters of power in Pakistani military. As the events unfold further, it seems that Mr. Zardari has been so badly weakened that he will be forced to resign in not too distant a future. Until that happens, Pakistan will continue to face significant instability and continuing and serious security threats from within and outside.

As the political turmoil reached alarming new heights in Pakistan over the last few days, Obama adviser Bruce Riedel said in a report, prepared in conjunction with the National Security Council (NSC), that he believed that unless serious action was taken, Pakistan would become a ‘terrorist university’, representing a far greater threat to the security of the US and Europe than Afghanistan did before 9/11.

“Recent apocalyptic intelligence on the situation in Pakistan has shocked the Obama administration and convinced Riedel’s review team that radicals trained in Pakistan are the greatest threat to western security,” the Daily Telegraph reported.

It said the Riedel review had reportedly concluded that seven out of 10 Taliban and other militants in Afghanistan and Pakistan were “reconcilable”, who could be bribed, cajoled and persuaded to turn away from extremism. This appears to be a vindication of Pakistan's policy of reconciliation with elements among the Taliban.

“The review, likely to be published within days, will recommend that non-military aid to Pakistan is quadrupled. Payments to Afghan tribal chiefs will also increase. In return, the Pakistani government will be expected to agree to a wholesale overhaul of its military which will see US special forces retrain Pakistani soldiers in counter-insurgency warfare,” The Telegraph added.

There is a great deal of urgency being felt in Washington to try and resolve political tensions in Pakistan without jeopardizing government support against the Taliban and Al Qaeda militancy. The U.S. faces a serious dilemma here. While the U.S. has found Zardari quite pliable in support of American policy in the region, a weakened Zardari and less than friendly Sharif and Kayani are seen as significant roadblocks by Washington. It will be interesting to see how Americans attempt to keep Zardari at the helm when he has become almost as unpopular as Musharraf was in his last few months in office.

In a December, 2008 poll conducted by the US-based International Republican Institute (IRI), 88% of the respondents said Pakistan is moving in the wrong direction, while 73 per cent said the economic situation had worsened in the past year.

A total of 76 per cent rated the PPP-led government's performance on key issues as poor, up from 51 per cent in a survey conducted by IRI in June.

67 per cent replied in the negative when asked if things would be better now as there is a democratically elected Parliament and President in Pakistan.

While 59 per cent of Pakistanis surveyed said they would prefer Sharif as President, only 19 per cent backed Zardari for the job. 63 per cent also said they disapproved of Zardari's performance while only 19 per cent approved it.

So what does the future hold for Zardari? Since the IRI poll was taken before Zardari's unpopular actions in Punjab, it is very likely that his support has further eroded recently. With such low level of support, it is likely that he will face a revolt within his own party. Moving forward, there are two distinct possibilities that will further hurt Mr. Zardari's chances: (1) The Iftikhar Chaudhry court could repeal President Musharraf's NRO, the executive order granting amnesty to Zardari that would force him out as president and/or (2) the repeal of article 58(b) of the constitution by parliament that would turn the president into a powerless figurehead.

Thinking beyond the Zardari era, I see many Pakistanis, such as Professor Adil Najam of Boston University, hoping that a "new politics may emerge in Pakistan around the faces and frameworks of the lawyers movement and that it will remain true to its aspirations rather than succumbing to political temptations".

While I abhor the feudal politics of Pakistan and share the hope of new politics based on civility and rule of law, I do think that the lawyers movement and the case of Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry has been exploited by cynical politicians to achieve their own objectives of destroying their opponents. The violent and uncivil methods used by this movement are also highly questionable and unjustified in a democracy. What Pakistanis need more than anything now is a period of relative stability to allow economic and civic activity to resume so the poor and hungry can take care of themselves. Make no mistake about it, the lawyers’ fight for higher ideals is being fought at the expense of those who can least afford it. As long as there is serious economic deprivation and resulting violence in Pakistan, it will be extremely difficult to achieve true democratic ideals. Instead, we’ll be dealing with rising insurgency and expansion of “Swats” in Pakistan.

Related Links:

Justice Chaudry's Address to New York Bar

Has Lawyers Movement Gone Awry?

Lawless Lawyers of Lahore

Lawyers Liars

Feudal Democracy in Pakistan


Anonymous said...

zardari will soon be in exile and pervaiz musharrf will be tried for crimes against pakistan and hanged IA.

Anonymous said...

How long can President Zardari survive?

As President, or in this world?
Seems the answer to both might be "not too long".

Riaz Haq said...

Anon & Anon:

We need to stop thinking in terms of physically harming or executing our leaders, no matter how strongly we dislike them. The politics of revenge has no place in democracy.

Anonymous said...

I would rather hope that we get Zardari to bring all the money back and we let him stay as a president or as an ordinary citizen. I would also like to see charismatic Musharraf working with Army on one side and working internationally like Jimmy Carter on international front. Well, Aaayeeeeee I have a dream.

Anonymous said...

I really wish Zardari to step down from Presidency but I'm not sure that will take place without further conflict and drama. The future of Pakistan lies with us, the civil society. Despite the elements of lawlessness in the lawyers' movement, the movement one because it was able to stimulate people out of their passivity, and that happened as the cause the movement was selfless and moral.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a story in Washington Post about US-British intervention in Pakistan's latest political crisis:

The U.S. and British governments undertook direct and intense intervention as the crisis was building late last week. In addition to Clinton, Holbrooke was in direct contact with Pakistani leaders, as was British Foreign Secretary David Miliband. Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, spoke directly with Pakistani Army Chief of Staff Ashfaq Kiyani on Friday, and the U.S. and British ambassadors made repeated, direct contact with Zardari and Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani over the weekend.

"The international community worked closely with both sides here," Holbrooke said.

Zardari's government, however, was less than pleased with how the intervention unfolded -- especially the contacts with Sharif. The opposition leader, deposed as prime minister by a military coup in 1999, credits then-U.S. President Bill Clinton with helping to save his life following the military action that led to his exile, and he has remained close to Hillary Clinton.

By calling Sharif last weekend, a senior Pakistani official close to Zardari said, Clinton further weakened the government.

The administration's intervention, the official said, "has lasting implications for how much the Zardari government is going to go out on a limb for the U.S., for how much we will trust them."

Anonymous said...

Did Zardari get the last laugh?

Tuesday, March 17, 2009
Zahid F Ebrahim

There is much talk of an embattled and defeated man in the Presidency. The chief justice has been restored. The Zardari government has surrendered, it is claimed. So why has Zardari's smile gotten wider?

As night fell on March 15, the long march was making history. The people of Pakistan refused to be cowed by lathis or unending tear gas. Senior police officials refused to obey orders from Salmaan Taseer's government to use deadly force against unarmed citizens. Every hurdle on the road to Islamabad was simply melting away in face of the Black Coats' revolution.

However, on announcement of the restoration of Iftikhar Chaudhry as chief justice, the revolution has retreated. The Long March and dharna have been called off by lawyers and politicians. President Zardari's government is taking credit for fulfilling the promise of Benazir Bhutto.

Prime Minister Gillani's announced on state television that Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry will be restored as chief justice on March 21, only after the retirement of the incumbent chief justice, Abdul Hameed Dogar. He reiterated that Mr Zardari had been unable to fulfil the promise of restoration because Abdul Hameed Dogar was already chief justice and that there could not be two chief justices. Prime Minister Gillani also committed that all other deposed judges will stand restored, but notably there was no mention of restoring the Nov 2, 2007, judiciary. In fact, Gillani clearly stated that the restoration of Iftikhar Chaudhry was fulfilment of President Zardari's pledge that the term of any existing judge will not be disturbed.

Musharraf's abettor in the Nov 3 assault on the judiciary, Abdul Hameed Dogar, will get an honourable exit. The judges appointed by Musharraf after Nov 3 will continue in office. Those who took oath under the PCO, despite the clear Order of the Supreme Court on Nov 3, 2007, not to do so, will continue "undisturbed," as will the recently appointed judges, loyalists with which President Zardari has packed the superior courts.

Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, Justice Ramday in the Supreme Court, Justice Sharif in the Lahore High Court and Justice Mushir Alam in the Sindh High Court, even if one includes those honourable judges who were deposed on Nov 3 and reinstated after repeating their oath under the Constitution, will be a minority in the superior courts of Pakistan and thus rendered ineffective.

The illegal actions of Nov 3 will continue to be recognised as validated according to the decision of Abdul Hameed Dogar in the Tikka Mohammed Iqbal case. According to Senate chairman Farooq Naek, Article 270 AAA, the product of the signature of a dictator, stays. This is also the argument of Malik Muhammad Qayyum, the last attorney general, who claims that the illegal acts of Nov 3 continue to be protected by Article 270 AAA because it has been validated by the PCO Judiciary. Thus the guarantees given by President Zardari not to touch General Musharraf or his illegal actions of Nov 3 will remain undisturbed.

The president's powers under the 17th Amendment will remain. The presidential form of government introduced by General Musharraf suits the present incumbent fine. Any move opposing it can be referred to the dustbin of high powered committees.

Zardari's real political adversary, the PML-N may be the biggest loser. Duped thrice before, they have once again fallen for an impotent promise. They were on the road to vindication, but decided to make a u-turn. The two Sharifs will remain at the mercy of a decision in a review by the same PCO Bench which disqualified them. Even if the PML-N government is restored in Punjab, without Shahbaz Sharif, it will have a tough time coping with a belligerent Salmaan Taseer.

Therefore, standing tall in the presidential palace on March 21 after hosting a farewell banquet for Abdul Hameed Dogar, President Zardari can confidently say that had the last laugh.

The lawyers of Pakistan will be left in a position no better than Saadat Hasan Manto's Ustaad Mangu. "The constables took Ustad Mangu to the police station. On the way and at the police station, he kept yelling, The new constitution…the new constitution. But no one understood what he was referring to. What are you shouting about…what new laws and rights are you shouting about…the laws are the same old ones… And Ustad Mangu was locked up in a cell." (Saadat Hasan Manto, New Constitution).

Riaz Haq said...

Average Pakistani’s experience of the justice system is at the local level and not the level of higher courts in the nation. Even under Justice Chaudhry in 2006, Transparency International ranked the judiciary as the third most corrupt institution in Pakistan. It’s not clear if Mr. Chaudhry’s vision goes beyond Islamabad to a broader effort at reforming the decrepit and corrupt justice system in Pakistan to make it more just, accessible and affordable for the people in all corners of the nation. All the talk about a “revolution” will just remain pure hype until the average people can feel the positive changes in the behavior of their local police, lawyers and judges.

Anonymous said...

since when did the west have our interests at heart and since when have their surveys been the true representation of the Pakistani people's hopes desires and wishes? a failed state is not in their favor neither is a totally stable Pakistan.. what they want ideally, is an unrest that simmers at the core and shimmers in every aspect of the nation. Zardari's survey according to them is just that.. a confused mixture because that's what they would like for us to be.. confused and divided. Pakistan needs to focus on itself, not what we are told by others.

Riaz Haq said...

From Dawn Today .....

Lawyers’ struggle: another view
By Kaiser Bengali
Monday, 30 Mar, 2009 | 07:54 AM PST |

THE successful movement for the reinstatement of Iftikhar Chaudhry is being billed as a historic watershed event that has redefined the politics of the country and, in particular, the relationship between citizen and state.

Whether this conclusion turns out to be an illusion or reality will be tested in due course of time. In the meantime, however, an examination of the composition of the movement raises some disturbing questions.

The movement was started in March 2007 by the lawyers’ community and emerged as a rallying point for democratic forces opposed to Gen Musharraf’s military-backed regime. In the process, it attracted support from a broad spectrum of society — political parties of all shades, civil society and even retired military and intelligence officers. The latter formally organised themselves under the banner of the Pakistan Ex-Servicemen Society.

Following last year’s national polls and Gen Musharraf’s subsequent departure, a section of this coalition lost its enthusiasm for Iftikhar Chaudhry’s reinstatement. The vast majority of dismissed judges also agreed to be reinstated after taking a fresh oath of office under the constitution. However, a core — largely centred in Punjab — remained committed to the original objectives of the movement and continued the campaign. By early 2009, PML-N — the majority party in Punjab — took control of the movement and led it to a successful conclusion.

The movement’s advocates saw themselves on a pedestal as ‘crusaders’ for justice and rule of law and couched their rhetoric in highly moralistic terms. Undoubtedly, the movement comprised eminent individuals of impeccable integrity, who have devoted their careers uncompromisingly to the cause of rule of law and democracy. Due credit in this respect has to be accorded ungrudgingly.

However, a perusal of the roster of the ‘crusaders’ does not inspire unqualified confidence, as many have their past to answer for. There are questions with respect to their commitment to democracy, constitutionalism and rule of law — and their political orientation; with implications for the direction of politics in the country.

It cannot be comforting to note that some of the advocates of the movement were active members, collaborators or supporters of military regimes. Among leaders of the lawyers’ movement, one was a provincial minister under Gen Musharraf’s military regime and another a prosecutor for Gen Musharraf’s National Accountability Bureau. They also included many in the legal fraternity, political parties, civil society and media who were ardent supporters of Gen Musharraf when he subverted the constitution and turned into his bitter critics when he dismissed Iftikhar Chaudhry.

Some of them tried to make their contribution through print and electronic media and others through marching on the streets. That the subversion of the constitution did not stir the conscience of all of the above, but the cause of a PCO judge did is a sad commentary on their credentials with respect to their principled commitment to the rule of law and democracy.

The record of political parties in this coalition also merits close scrutiny. In this respect, the role of Jamaat-i-Islami is particularly murky. It collaborated with the Yahya Khan regime in the massacre in erstwhile East Pakistan, served as the B-team to the violently repressive Ziaul Haq regime, and supported the Musharraf regime in imposing the 17th Amendment — which it now opposes! Under the circumstances, it appears to be a strange voice for judicial, civil rights and democratic causes.

The PML-N has struggled against the Musharraf dictatorship; as such, its leadership’s collaboration with Ziaul Haq’s military dictatorship can perhaps be condoned and their credentials as champions of democracy and constitutionalism accepted. However, they cannot escape responsibility for the terrible mess the country is in today in terms of institutional breakdown and internal terrorism. Notably, their then comrades-in-arms included many military and intelligence officers, some of whom are now their comrades-in-arms in the current movement.

The ex-servicemen are mostly those who served in the armed forces and its intelligence wings during the Zia dictatorship. One of them is a 1977 coup leader, another an intelligence officer who publicly claimed the right to destabilise democratic governments in the name of protecting ‘national interests’, and yet another an intelligence officer who publicly confessed to using state funds to ‘manufacture’ a political party that included the present PML-N leadership.

Some of the officers were integrally involved in the so-called Afghan jihad and in creating the jihadi infrastructure in Pakistan. Allegedly, the core of this jihadi network is located in Punjab, to the extent that the then ruling Taliban cadres in Afghanistan in the late 1990s referred to many of their commanders generically as ‘Punjabis’. Even recently, many of the terrorist perpetrators in the country have been traced to Punjab towns like Toba Tek Singh, Jhang, Rahim Yar Khan and Faridkot. The southern Punjab-centricity of all the above ‘crusaders’ is striking.

The questions that arise are: can the emergence of the above coalition be a mere coincidence? Or has the cover of the issue of Chaudhry Iftikhar’s reinstatement been used to attempt to band together Ziaist rightwing elements, denominated by the military’s national security agenda, religious parties’ theocratic agenda and the business community’s neo-liberal economic agenda? And what does this development portend for the conflict vis-à-vis democracy and federalism in the country and religious extremism in the region?

After all, there is a history of an integral nexus between PML-N leaders, now retired military and intelligence officers and Jamaat-i-Islami under the Ziaul Haq dictatorship. Of course, PML-N has attempted to cast itself in a liberal mould, but two facts militate against an unqualified acceptance of their liberal credentials. One is the fact that many of the important PML-N leaders have a background of association with religious parties, particularly Jamaat-i-Islami. And the other is the fact that it made an abortive attempt in 1998 to introduce the Sharia through the 15th Amendment to the constitution. At the least, these factors raise likely suspicions about its lack of committed opposition to a theocratic agenda.

It appears that ideological battle lines are being drawn. One side appears to coalesce with the largely Punjab-based, PML-N-led rightwing neo-conservative remnants of the Ziaist establishment, committed to a centralised state with a quasi-theocratic national security agenda. The other side appears to comprise nationally based forces, disparately comprising the PPP, ANP, MQM and Baloch parties, seeking a society sans religious bigotry and a polity that is federal and pluralistic. The choices for the people are stark and clear.

Riaz Haq said...

Kamran Khan of the News sees Zardari's dwindling influence and rising power of PM Gilani:

President Zardari’s political problems are compounding rapidly as the key players, such as the Army, the judiciary and political allies who had facilitated Zardari’s ascent to the presidency despite PPP’s lack of majority in parliament last year are now having second thought that borders on repenting their earlier decision to let Zardari combine the powers of the supreme commander of the armed forces, the president and the PPP chief in one office.

Dwindling faith in President Zardari’s capacity to act as a neutral, corruption-free, nationally respected leader of Pakistan waned further early this month when the Washington-based International Republican Institute (IRI), a pro-democracy group financed by the US government, reported in an in-depth survey that only about two in 10 Pakistanis carry any favourable opinion about President Zardari.

As opposed to President Zardari’s terrible approval rating, the same IRI survey revealed that a big majority of Pakistanis, close to nine out of 10, hold the institution of the Pakistan Army in the highest esteem followed by the judiciary that won the support of seven out of 10 Pakistanis.

Immediate concern facing President Zardari, knowledgeable officials and a personal aide said, is not his sinking public image but the growing unease in relations with an increasingly assertive Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani.

Gilani now wants unhindered authority on matters of government that include foreign relations, meaning no role for president in the external and national security affairs of the state. The prime minister, enjoying full confidence of the military leadership and the cabinet, has set on an independent course, often confronting President Zardari’s closest allies like in November last year when he removed the president’s blue-eyed retired civil servant Salman Faruqi from the important post of deputy chairman Planning Commission.

He followed that by sacking Mahmood Ali Durrani, the president’s handpicked national security adviser in January this year, and reinforced his position by neglecting Zardari’s preference for Dr Shoaib Suddle, a professional police official as the head of Intelligence Bureau, who was replaced by Javed Noor, an equally honourable professional police officer in May this year.

Gilani went on to consolidate his image of an independent and assertive prime minister in August this year when he asked President Zardari’s closest friend and important associate Dr Asim Hussain to resign as the prime minister’s adviser on petroleum and natural resources. And early this month, he sacked Latif Khosa, President Zardari’s nominated attorney general of Pakistan, whose case of allegedly accepting Rs 3 million as bribe was referred to him by the Chief Justice of Pakistan.

“The president fully understands that all critical actors of power play in Pakistan, along with almost full spectrum of political parties, are putting their act together to launch a final salvo against him soon,” conceded a personal friend and a close aide to President Zardari.

Riaz Haq said...

The Supreme Court of Pakistan has declared NRO null and void ab initio, according to Dawn News:

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court has declared the controversial National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) null and void in a short order.

In a landmark decision, the apex court unanimously decided that the ordinance was unconstitutional.

All old cases that had been dismissed under the NRO stand revived and can now be reopened as per the court orders.

The court said that all orders that were passed and all acquittals under the NRO were illegal and never existed.

The apex court in its order also said that all convictions that were held prior to the enactment of the NRO stand revived as well.

Now the Zardari camp is expected to argue that, under the constitution of Pakistan, President Zardari is immune from prosecution as long as he is in office.

Riaz Haq said...

Here is an AP story about the aftermath of Pakistan's amnesty reversal:

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan—Pakistan's anti-corruption agency has barred the defense minister and nearly 250 other top officials from leaving the country as political turmoil deepens following a Supreme Court ruling that struck down a graft amnesty.

The agency said Thursday that the officials were now under investigation following this week's court verdict, which meant that up to 8,000 graft and other cases dating back to the 1990s have, or will soon be, reopened. The decision has roiled the country's political elite just as the United States is looking for a solid partner to help it fight against al-Qaida and the Taliban along the Afghan border.

U.S.-allied President Asif Ali Zardari and several of his key aides are among those who benefited from the amnesty deal. Zardari is protected by constitutional immunity from any criminal prosecution, but opponents say they plan to challenge his eligibility for office.

Pakistan's anti-corruption agency said 247 people who had cases withdrawn under the amnesty had been blocked from travel because cases against them were now under investigation. It did not say who was on the list, but Pakistani news channels reported that Interior Minister Rehman Malik—a key aide of Zardari—was included, as well as Defense Minister Ahmed Mukhtar.

Mukhtar told a local television station that immigration officials at the airport had barred him from boarding a Pakistani International Airlines plane to China along with the navy chief late Thursday. He said he planned to take delivery of a new warship. It was not clear what he was being investigated for.

While the armed forces are under nominal civilian control, analysts say that in reality the top brass—not Mukhtar—make the decisions regarding defense issues. As such, investigations against him and Malik are not expected to directly impact the country's fight against militancy in the border regions.

Wednesday's Supreme Court ruling has significantly weakened Zardari and raised question marks over his future. It has been welcomed by many Pakistanis, who viewed the graft amnesty as an immoral piece of legislation that whitewashed the crimes of the elite.

The 54-year-old, who heads the country's largest party, is already unpopular, in large part because of his close ties with Washington. He now faces the prospect of bruising court battles that will likely mean old corruption charges come under fresh scrutiny.

Zardari's aides said any corruption charges against him were politically motivated and noted that they have never been proved despite being aired since the 1990s. Critics countered he was morally obligated to resign, at least while the court heard any challenges to his rule.

"It will be in his own interest, it will be in the interest of his party and it will be good for the system," said Khawaja Asif, a senior leader from the opposition Pakistan Muslim League party.

The Obama administration needs political stability in Pakistan to succeed in neighboring Afghanistan, where violence against U.S. and NATO troops is running at all time highs. Washington is trying to get Islamabad to crack down on insurgents close to the northwestern border who it says are behind much of the insurgency in Afghanistan.

Earlier Thursday, two U.S. missile strikes pummeled targets in the border region killing 17 people, local intelligence officials said. The latest attacks in more than 40 this year rained down Thursday on North Waziristan, a haven for al-Qaida and the Taliban, including groups determined to push the U.S. and NATO out of Afghanistan.

It was not immediately clear exactly who or what was the target of the strike, and the Pakistani officials said they were trying to establish the identities of the dead.

Riaz Haq said...

Here is a BBC story about the aftermath of Pakistan's amnesty reversal:

A judge in Karachi has summoned the Interior Minister, Rehman Malik to appear before an anti-corruption court.

It follows a court ruling this week which ruled out an immunity granted to the minister and thousands of other Pakistani officials.

Mr Malik is one of around 250 officials whose corruption and criminal cases have been re-opened.

On Thursday Defence Minister Ahmed Mukhtar was barred from going to China after he was stopped at the airport.

Mr Mukhtar said immigration officials prevented him from boarding the plane for an official visit.

The latest developments after the supreme court ruled on Wednesday that an amnesty protecting senior members of government was unconstitutional.

Only recently has it been revealed that more than 8,000 politicians and officials benefited from the legislation.

Those under investigation are barred from leaving Pakistan but the others have so far not been named.

Presidential immunity

The BBC's Aleem Maqbool in Islamabad says that the ruling has thrown Pakistan's political administration into turmoil.

Our correspondent says that calls are growing for the president and the entire government to step down - something presidential aides have said will not happen.

The controversial amnesty was brought in by the previous president, Pervez Musharraf, and its removal opens the way to possible prosecution for allies of the current President, Asif Zardari.

Mr Zardari himself faces several pending court cases against him in Pakistan but is protected by presidential immunity.

Before taking office, he spent years in jail after being convicted on corruption charges he says were politically motivated.

Pakistan's main opposition, the Pakistan Muslim League-N of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, has called on the president to resign.

Exit list

Mr Mukhtar told local television that his name was on the "exit list" restricting travel and that the federal investigation authorities had said he could not leave the country.

He told Geo TV that he had been planning to visit China for three days on an official visit in connection with the delivery of a warship.

"It was in connection with a corruption case but there is no corruption case against me - it is only an inquiry which is pending against me for the past 12 years."

He said he would "strongly defend" himself in court.

The amnesty was introduced by Mr Musharraf in order to allow Mr Zardari's late wife, Benazir Bhutto, to return to the country and stand for office, with the aim of a possible power-sharing deal with Mr Musharraf.

She returned to Pakistan from abroad after the so-called National Reconciliation Ordinance was signed into law, but was assassinated soon after.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a report from the News about Zardari receiving expensive gifts:

ISLAMABAD: President Asif Zardari has set a new record within a year by taking one-third of all the expensive gifts presented to all Pakistani presidents and prime ministers. Of the gifts totalling Rs160 million, Zardari has taken gifts worth Rs62 million during the first year of his presidency.

In his foreign visits so far, Zardari has been given 27 gifts worth Rs62 million,which is one-third of the accumulated cost of the 3,039 gifts, which were given to presidents and prime ministers in three decades.

Zardari is said to have got two BMWs and two foreign manufactured Toyota Jeeps as gift by Libyan leader Colonel Qadafi during his visit to Libya, which he took to his home, after paying a sum of only Rs9.3 million as retention cost.

These shocking figures were produced before the Senate standing committee on cabinet division by the cabinet secretary on Monday during a presentation to its members. Zardari is now richer by Rs50 million within one year in the presidency, without doing a single rupee irregularity as this all was done under the law as he paid 15 per cent of the total cost of two BMWs and two jeeps and retained them.

The other 13 Pakistani presidents and prime ministers, from Gen Ziaul Haq to Gen Musharraf and from Prime Minister Mohammad Khan Junejo to Shaukat Aziz, quietly took 3,039 expensive gifts worth Rs160 million to their homes. The list shows three presidents and two prime ministers — Farooq Leghari, Gen (retd) Pervez Musharraf, Asif Zardari, Nawaz Sharif and Shaukat Aziz — took gifts worth Rs150 million out of Rs160 million but Asif Zardari took the largest share within a year of his presidency.

Others including Gen Ziaul Haq, Ghulam Ishaq Khan, Rafiq Tarar, and PMs Mohammad Khan Junejo, Benazir Bhutto, Balakh Sher Mazari, Zafarullah Khan Jamali and Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain got gifts worth Rs10 million.

This extraordinary list does not contain names of hundreds of ministers, federal secretaries, officials and military officers and generals who, too, received gifts from foreign dignitaries and took them home.

According to an official copy presented to the National Assembly committee members, the record of similar gifts received and retained by two prime ministers, Yousuf Raza Gilani and Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, was not produced before the committee.

One source said either both the gentlemen did not get a single gift during their tenures or the official record of their gifts had gone missing so it was not produced before the committee members. The source claimed there could be one other possibility: the cabinet division bosses did not produce the record for some other “obvious reason”.

Shaukat Aziz, Gen (retd) Musharraf and Asif Zardari were among the few leaders who got the most expensive gifts. Sources said these gifts were valued at much lower price than their actual price to enable these leaders to take the gifts home without paying a single penny or after paying a meagre part of the cost.

Riaz Haq said...

Foreign Policy is reporting that President Asif Ali Zardari may be on his way out for health reasons:

Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari left Pakistan suddenly on Tuesday, complaining of heart pains, and is now in Dubai. His planned testimony before a joint session of Pakistan's parliament on the Memogate scandal is now postponed indefinitely.

On Dec. 4, Zardari announced that he would address Pakistan's parliament about the Memogate issue, in which his former ambassador to Washington Husain Haqqani stands accused of orchestrating a scheme to take power away from Pakistan's senior military and intelligence leadership and asking for U.S. help in preventing a military coup. Haqqani has denied that he wrote the memo at the heart of the scheme, which also asked for U.S. support for the Zardari government and promised to realign Pakistani foreign policy to match U.S. interests.

The memo was passed from Pakistani-American businessman Mansoor Ijaz to former National Security Advisor Jim Jones, to then Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen on May 10, only nine days after U.S. forces killed Osama bin Laden in the Pakistani military town of Abbottabad.
Early on Tuesday morning, Zardari's spokesman revealed that the president had traveled to Dubai to see his children and undergo medical tests linked to a previously diagnosed "cardiovascular condition."

A former U.S. government official told The Cable today that when President Barack Obama spoke with Zardari over the weekend regarding NATO's killing of the 24 Pakistani soldiers, Zardari was "incoherent." The Pakistani president had been feeling increased pressure over the Memogate scandal. "The noose was getting tighter -- it was only a matter of time," the former official said, expressing the growing expectation inside the U.S. government that Zardari may be on the way out.

The former U.S. official said that parts of the U.S. government were informed that Zardari had a "minor heart attack" on Monday night and flew to Dubai via air ambulance today. He may have angioplasty on Wednesday and may also resign on account of "ill health."

"This is the ‘in-house change option' that has been talked about," said Shuja Nawaz, director of the South Asia Center at the Atlantic Council, in a Tuesday interview with The Cable. Nawaz said that this plan would see Zardari step aside and be replaced by his own party, preserving the veneer of civilian rule but ultimately acceding to the military's wishes to get rid of Zardari.

"Unfortunately, it means that the military may have had to use its muscle to effect change yet again," said Nawaz. "Now if they stay at arm's length and let the party take care of its business, then things may improve. If not, then this is a silent coup with [Pakistani prime minister Yousaf Raza] Gilani as the front man."

In Islamabad, some papers have reported that before Zardari left Pakistan, the Pakistani Army insisted that Zardari be examined by their own physicians, and that the Army doctors determined that Zardari was fine and did not need to leave the country for medical reasons. Zardari's spokesman has denied that he met with the Army doctors.
On May 2, the day after bin Laden was killed, Wajid Hasan, Pakistan's high commissioner to the United Kingdom, said in an interview with CNN that Pakistan, "did know that this was going to happen because we have been keeping -- we were monitoring him and America was monitoring him. But Americans got to where he was first."..