US concerned over political developments in Pakistan

Washington, oct.1 (ANI): The Obama administration has reportedly expressed concern over recent developments taking place in Pakistan's defence and political circles, following Thursday's early morning Predator strike that killed three Pakistani soldiers.

While a Pentagon spokesman has said that the air strike is under investigation, Washington is said to have expressed concern over reports that the unpopular civilian government in Pakistan is under siege for corruption and incompetence in dealing with floods.

U.S. officials believe that Pakistan's powerful army and opposition parties are positioning themselves to install a new civilian government to replace President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani.

Pakistan's Chief of Army Staff, General Ashfaq Pervez Kiyani is said to have "conveyed the concerns of the people" in no uncertain terms to the political leadership.

"There's a fair degree of disarray," said one of several administration officials who discussed the increasingly tense situation on condition of anonymity.

The Washington Post further quoted the official, as saying: "The government can't really handle the crisis of the flood, and there's lots of political jockeying" as government and opposition figures look for advantage in a potential new lineup.".S. officials indicated that the Obama administration has begun to contemplate the effects of a change, engineered through Zardari's resignation as head of his political party, the dissolution of the current coalition government, or a call for new elections under the Pakistani constitution, rather than any overt action by the military.

Some suggested that a new, constitutionally-approved government that was more competent and popular, and had strong military backing, might be better positioned to support U.S. policies.

None of the officials had a clear sense of who might head such a government. Although Nawaz Sharif, head of the leading opposition party, the Pakistan Muslim League, has grown increasingly outspoken in his criticism of Zardari, U.S. and Pakistani officials and analysts said it was unlikely he would be interested in taking over the government at this point.

From the U.S. point of view, he said, the worst-case scenario would be an attempt by Pakistan's Supreme Court to oust Zardari by revoking his immunity from prosecution in a dated Swiss money-laundering case that could render his 2008 election illegal and throw the government into chaos.

Scheduled to rule last Monday, the court has postponed action for two more weeks.

"If things happen in a constitutional way, there is no burning issue here," a second U.S. official said, adding that "at the end of the day, we're committed to a civilian government and a constitutional process."

"But if the [political] crisis becomes a distraction" to the war effort or crucial flood reconstruction, "or becomes destabilizing and brings people into the streets - something that could very well happen - that's not a good thing, " he said.

The Obama administration has long believed that Pakistan is the key to success in vanquishing the Taliban and eliminating al-Qaeda's activities in the region.

It was unclear whether any senior U.S. officials in Washington had contacted their Pakistani counterparts on Thursday to discuss the incident. CIA Director Leon Panetta, in Islamabad this week on a previously scheduled visit, met with Zardari on Thursday. A statement from Zardari's office said the president had told Panetta that "the government of Pakistan strongly disapproves any incident of violation of its sovereignty."

The Obama administration's Pakistan policy has its own domestic difficulties.

Many in Congress have grown impatient with what they see as the administration's coddling of Pakistan despite its foot-dragging against the militant sanctuaries.

Human rights organizations have cited the Pakistani military for abuses in its fight against domestic insurgents, criticisms that are likely to increase with the emergence on YouTube this week of a video that purports to show Pakistani soldiers summarily executing a row of blind-folded men in civilian dress. (ANI)

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