Sharif using Pak crisis to bring down Zardari Government and win polls
Lahore, Mar.13 (ANI): Even as the United States and Britain continue with their efforts to broker a compromise between Pakistan's two major political parties - the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), many think that former Prime Minister and PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif is betting that he can bring down the PPP-led federal coalition government and win the elections that would follow, thus making him reluctant to cut a deal.
According to the Guardian, for the past two days, British and American officials have been involved in intense mediation between President Asif Ali Zardari's government and opposition leader Nawaz Sharif.
London and Washington are concerned that Pakistan, a key ally, is engulfed in political infighting rather than tackling extremists.
Political sources in Pakistan say that Sharif looks unlikely to back down as a "Long March" protest against Islamabad kicked off yesterday, drawing a heavy-handed response from the government.
The movement, which planned to gather supporters on the way, is backed by Sharif and is calling for an independent judiciary.
Security forces have beaten and rounded up lawyers, opposition politicians and human rights campaigners. It now seems likely that Zardari's government will try to stop any activists reaching the capital on Monday.
British involvement is considered important given its historical relationship with ex-colony Pakistan and its intimate knowledge of the players involved. Britain is also seen as more neutral than the US.
The deal being hammered out would see Sharif given the chance to reconstitute the provincial government for Punjab that was dismissed last week by the federal government.
The former chief justice, who has been championed by Sharif, would be reinstated but under terms that would either limit his powers or see him subsequently retired.
He has joined other opposition parties and Pakistan's lawyers' movement to oppose the government.
On Thursday, British Foreign Secretary David Miliband telephoned Zardari. It is understood that Miliband briefed Prime Minister Gordon Brown on developments.
Separately, the US ambassador to Pakistan, Anne Patterson, went to see Sharif at his Raiwind estate on the outskirts of Lahore.
She later took part in a conference call with Zardari and the US special envoy to Pakistan and Afghanistan, Richard Holbrooke, who is based in Washington. Lasting 30 minutes, the call is said to have pored over details of a compromise. (ANI)