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President Zardari In Pakistan? Trouble Brews . . .

On one hand, the nomination of PPP Co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari to replace Pervez Musharraf as president appears to be a rather decisive stroke, which in itself bids relatively well for the Pakistani coalition government. The balance-tipping middle parties between Zardari’s PPP and Nawaz Sharif’s PML-N seems to have largely lined up behind Benazir Bhutto’s widower, giving it an apparent clear majority in votes (Pakistani presidents are elected by its parliament (National Assembly), not directly through national vote.)

But on the other hand, decisive or not, Zardari is the very embodiment of corruption - the very reason Pakistanis cheered Musharraf’s bloodless coup in 1999. And the fight between the PPP and the PML-N over the reinstatement of judges is central to Zardari’s corruption. The corruption charges against Zardari and his late wife, Benazir Bhutto, were essentially dropped by the current set of judges installed by Musharraf. And the reinstatement of the original judges means Zardari (or Mr. Benazir Bhutto, if one prefers) may well see them come back to life. Thus, the fight within the PML-N/PPP coalition.

And for all his faults, the level of corruption under Musharraf - one of his stated reasons for taking power - was lower. A Zardari presidency is a return to the old in that regard, and one reason why this coalition government may have been popularly elected yet will remain both fractured and unpopular in the eyes of the general Pakistani population. ‘The same, only different.’

With that context in mind, and excerpt from Pakistan’s Daily Times report today.

The Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), the major coalition partner in the federal government, has decided to nominate its Co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari as the next president of the country.

A source close to Zardari House told Daily Times that this decision had been taken by the top hierarchy of the PPP and the party’s Central Executive Committee (CEC) would formally announce the decision after its meeting on Friday (tomorrow).

“The Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) will endorse and second the PPP CEC’s recommendation to nominate Asif Zardari as a presidential candidate,” the source said.

He said in return for its support to the PPP, the MQM would continue to hold the office of Sindh governor besides joining the coalition in the centre and accepting ministerial slots in the federal cabinet at a later stage.

It has also been learnt that the PPP expects the Awami National Party (ANP) and Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) to also support the PPP CEC’s recommendation.

The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), however, wants the next president from Balochistan or NWFP. But the PPP hierarchy insists that the top offices in the country are a right of the major political party.

The PML-N, it should be noted, is thus seeking a president from a province currently wrestling with an insurgency directly afoot. This is not insignificant.