Islamabad/Washington, Mar.18 (ANI): Pakistan and American officials have said that President Asif Ali Zardari had to capitulate to the demands of the Nawaz Sharif-led opposition on the judges restoration issue because he lacked the full backing of both the Army and the US that his predecessor Pervez Musharraf had enjoyed.
The officials say that the country's powerful Army and the United States refused to give Zardari full and unqualified backing.
A tumultuous week that began with protest marches and a harsh nationwide crackdown could have exploded into violence Monday, but instead the government publicly agreed at 6 a.m. to the demonstrators' key demand to reinstate Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry, the former chief justice.
US and Pakistani officials said Pakistan's Army chief, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani played a key role in defusing the confrontation.
General Kayani called on Gilani late Sunday night, and both went to see Zardari at about midnight for a meeting that ended at 1 a.m.
US officials thought that there were two reasons for Zardari's capitulation.
The first was that Kayani warned Zardari that he wouldn't be able to count on the military to confront the demonstrators and prevent them from marching into central Islamabad.
A second US official said that the Obama administration, in contacts with Kayani, framed Pakistan's internal conflict as a constitutional issue, implying that it supported Chaudhry's reinstatement.
The two officials requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the diplomacy.
Second, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton made it clear in a telephone call to Zardari that he couldn't count on the unqualified support of the US, unlike his predecessor, retired Gen. Pervez Musharraf, who had the full backing of the Bush administration when he launched a similar crackdown on Chaudhry's supporters in 2007.
"The message to Zardari was that 'it's not "till death do us part." ' It put him on notice that he could not push this stuff. We have been pushing him since the beginning of this crisis to find a solution," the senior US official said.
"And as he looked where he was going with this, he realized that he could not win," he added.
"With the administration's blessing, Kayani played the key role in this, and he left Zardari with no choice except to give in to the protesters and Nawaz and reinstate Chaudhry," said a veteran US intelligence expert on South Asia, referring to opposition leader Nawaz Sharif. (ANI)