Kayani considered plans to oust Zardari, send him into exile
London, Dec 1 (ANI): Pakistan's Army Chief General Ashfaq Kayani considered plans to oust President Asif Ali Zardari from office to prevent opposition leader Nawaz Sharif coming to power, according to US embassy cables.
Kayani is reported to have discussed this option with the US Ambassador Anne Patterson in March 2009, even as Sharif was rallying thousands of supporters to help him to topple the government through street protests.
Kayani said that while he disliked Zardari, he distrusted Sharif even more, and appeared to be angling for a solution that would prevent the latter from coming to power, The Guardian quoted the whistleblowing web site WikiLeaks, which released the cables, as saying.
This expose proves the strong involvement of the Pakistani military in civilian politics. It also highlights the central role of western diplomats in Pakistan's power games as the Americans spoke with Kayani. British diplomats forged their own plan to broker a political deal between warring factions.
The crisis was sparked off by Zardari's attempt to bar Sharif from running for parliament and his refusal to reinstate deposed Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry.
As the powerful protest movement of opposition supporters and lawyers grew in Sharif's stronghold of Lahore, western diplomats rushed to defuse the situation with Kayani's help.
During his fourth meeting with Patterson in less than a week, Kayani "hinted that he might, however, reluctantly, have to persuade President Zardari to resign if the situation sharply deteriorates".
He said Asfandyar Wali Khan, leader of the Pashtun nationalist Awami National party, could replace Zardari but Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani would remain in place.
In the end, Zardari was forced into a humiliating climb down on 16 March when, under massive pressure, he dropped the ban on Sharif and reinstated Chaudhry. (ANI)