Islamabad, May 26 : Pakistan People's Party (PPP) Co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari has reportedly refused to develop a working relationship with President Pervez Musharraf, ignoring pressures from the Bush Administration.
"Many well-wishers have suggested that I meet Musharraf in person and discuss the political problems in detail to find some solution," Zardari said on Sunday.
Though reluctant to explain the agenda of his proposed meeting with Musharraf, but said, "I am hopeful that the outcome of my meeting with Musharraf will not disappoint the people of Pakistan."
The well-wishers in question are reportedly emissaries of the US Government, and will be followed by the three US Senators who are currently visiting Pakistan.
The Bush Administration is said to have panicked when Zardari criticised Musharraf as 'a relic of the past'. Two US senators promptly met him on Sunday. a key member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, is seeing him today, and if sources are to be believed, these meetings are taking place to make Zardari back off from his hard line approach on Musharraf's future.
Senators Carl Levin and Bob Casey were told by Zardari on Sunday that Musharraf was not the solution, but the problem.
Zardari is of the opinion that Musharraf has been totally rejected by the voters in the February 18 polls and the Bush Administration should respect the people's verdict.
Until recently, Zardari had been working hard to take Musharraf along in the name of national reconciliation, which earned him criticism, and his party was dubbed as Musharraf's 'A' team, rather than his 'B' team.
Recently, Zardari said that if Musharraf does not resign he might be impeached.
Zardari has requested the Bush Administration to delay the proposed visit of US Under-Secretary of State John Negroponte to Pakistan this week.
Negroponte had last visited Pakistan in March. Zardari now feels that another visit may convey the impression that Negroponte is interfering in the Pakistani affairs, and is trying to rescue Musharraf.
Hussain Haqqani, Pakistani Ambassador designate to the US, has also played an important role in convincing the Bush Administration that a second visit by Negroponte in two months would be counterproductive.
Haqqani has given a commitment to Bush that Pakistan will keep fighting the war against terror; the objectives of the war will remain the same though the strategy may change. He will also meet top Democratic Party leaders and inform them that the new leadership in Pakistan cannot work with Musharraf any more.
The impeachment threats by Zardari, have not gone down well with the Pakistan Army. Discreet messages have been sent to Zardari to "resolve all the issues through dialogue."
The fear in political circles is that a cornered Musharraf might use his constitutional powers to dissolve the National Assembly. He is still the supreme commander of the armed forces and can order the Army chief to implement his orders against the elected government.
In 1993, the then President Ghulam Ishaq Khan had developed differences with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, and in the resulting situation, the then Army Chief, General Abdul Waheed Kakar, was forced to intervene and both President Ishaq Khan and PM Nawaz Sharif had to resign. The present high command of the army wants to avoid a similar situation.
Zardari is expected to start his first ever direct dialogue with Musharraf in the coming few days just to try and avoid a difficult situation. His meeting with Musharraf is fraught with political risk.