Islamabad, Feb.28 (ANI): Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari's reputation in Washington is likely to take a beating as a consequence of his moves against the Sharif brothers, a retired army general, who frequently meets with American officials when they come to Pakistan, has claimed.
The New York Times quoted Lt. Gen. (retired) Talatasood as saying: "He (Zardari) is deflecting the attention of the whole country to something that is so irrelevant."
"He is banking on the United States, but America will only support him up to a point," he added.
Lt. Gen. Masood was commenting on the Pakistan Supreme Court's decision not to allow the Sharif brothers to contest elections, as also the alleged move by the present government to bribe the Sharifs into accepting the incumbent PCO-appointed judiciary.
He also claimed that the move against the Sharifs has left the Pakistan Army quite upset, as the bulk of the soldiers come from Nawaz Sharif's Punjab province.
He said that notwithstanding the bloodless army coup of October 1999, the army "must be boiling inside."
"How can they tolerate this state of affairs?" he asked.
The bulk of army soldiers would have a natural inclination towards Sharif's party, theakistan Muslim League-N, he said.
Though the Chief of Army Staff, General Asfaq Parvez Kayani has vowed to keep the army out of politics, Pakistani officials said there could come a point where political instability became so great; that the army may feel to compelled to step in.
By ordering one of his main political allies, the Governor of Punjab, Salman Taseer, to take over governance of the province, Zardari was hitting directly at the Sharif brothers power centre, and,n effect, humiliating them, politicians said.
Some said Nawaz Sharif was now likely to work assiduously to bolster his popularity against Zardari.
The president's pro-American stance is anathema to large segments of the population, and Sharif could seek Islamist religious parties that have opposed American policy in Pakistan to come to his side, some politicians warned.
It was also possible that religious forces could gravitate to Sharif without his openncouragement, said Ishaq Khan Khakwani, a member of the Pakistan Muslim League-Q, and a former minister in the Musharraf government.
Since Wednesday's court ruling, Jamaat-e-Islami, an Islamist party that advocates Islamic law in Pakistan, has declared that its supporters will join the lawyers' movement in a long march planned for March 12 to mark the dismissal two years ago of Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry.
Nawaz Sharif said he and his brother would spearhead the lawyers' march, and join in a sit-in planned at the conclusion of the march inslamabad.
The size of the crowd during the lawyers' protest from Lahore to Islamabad, and the composition of the march could be a defining moment in the contest between Zardari and the Sharif forces, the NYT quoted politicians, as saying. (ANI)