US will closely monitor Zardari's difficulties: Expert

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Islamabad, Dec.1 (ANI): The United States will be closely following Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari's difficulties, as his political demise will end its attempt to put a friendly face on the "war on terror" which Pakistan is waging on Washington's behalf, feels Syed Saleem Shahzad, the Pakistan Bureau chief of Asia Times Online.

In the article, Shahzad says that three developments over the past few days have dealt a severe setback to the designs of the United States in the South Asian theatre of war.

Firstly, Taliban leader Mullah Omar last week rejected any possibility of talks with Afghan President Hamid Karzai or the United States, indicating that the only way towards peace was for foreign troops to leave Afghanistan.

Second, the chief of army staff, General Ashfaq Parvez Kiyani, hocked secular elements in the country by saying that "no one can separate Islam and Pakistan" and that the goal was to turn the country into a true Islamic state.

And third, he says Asia Times Online predicted, President Asif Ali Zardari issued an amended ordinance at the weekend in which he abdicated as chairman of the Nuclear Command Authority and transferred command of the country's nuclear arsenal to Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani.

Shahzad believes that Mullah Omar's statement is likely to derail any attempts at negotiations in Afghanistan, even at the level of junior Taliban commanders. Kiyani's statement, meanwhile, can be expected to demoralize secular forces such as the Pashtun sub-nationalist Awami National Party in North-West Frontier Province and Zardari's handing over of power over the nuclear arsenal is the beginning of the collapse of the Western-hatched secular and liberal coalition in Islamabad.

With the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) having expired on November 28, analysts believe that early next month many politicians could find themselves in court.

The NRO, issued on October 5, 2007, granted amnesty to politicians, political workers and bureaucrats who were accused of corruption, embezzlement, money-laundering, murder and terrorism between January 1, 1986, and October 12, 1999. Some of the main beneficiaries were Zardari and several present cabinet members.

Those most affected will be politicians from the ruling Pakistan People's Party (PPP) (corruption cases) and its ally, the Muttehida Quami Movement (criminal cases).

In this situation, opposition parties like the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) will mount additional pressure on the ruling coalition to resign and call mid-term elections.

Zardari, he says, is preparing to take on the opposition by curtailing sections of the media critical of him. (ANI)

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