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Aziz blames caretakers for most economic woes

June 05, 2008


LONDON, June 4: Nawaz Sharif will soon pull the plug on Asif Ali Zardari and force a fresh election which he will sweep, paving the way for a two-party system to emerge with the PML-N in the government and the PPP in the opposition, predicted former prime minister Shaukat Aziz, sounding more like an ordinary bystander to the current goings on in Pakistan rather than one who only a few months back had served as a military dictator’s ‘democratic’ face.

In any case, he said while talking to Dawn on a range of subjects that President Pervez Musharraf was the glue that was keeping Sharif and Zardari together and “as soon as the fastener comes off loose, the two will go their separate ways”.

He looked visibly disappointed when told that he had got it all wrong as according to sources close to the two parties, Zardari and Sharif were sticking together because they did not want to face another elections so soon with all the major players opposed to them still in power.

He did not agree with the suggestion that the two parties would bend over backwards to complete the tenure and use the time first to get power transferred from the presidency to parliament and then to strengthen the constitution.

He implied that the two governments, the federal and the Punjab, have started indulging in what the two parties used to do by way of financial shenanigans when they were taking turns in Islamabad in the decade of 1990s.

He also implied with innuendoes that during his recent visits to the US he had found the administration there to be wary of both Asif and Nawaz and that the stock of Musharraf and the new COAS, General Kayani, very high, “especially that of General Kayani.”

Mr Aziz described the post-election Pakistan as a rudderless ship which he said needed a firm hand to steer it clear of troubled waters.

He blamed the interim government of Mohammedmian Soomro for most of the economic problems that the elected government was facing today.

When asked how could the new government cope with the high world fuel and food prices, he had no ready answers.

As usual he took callous credit for the power shortages, claiming that the shortages reflected the ‘economic boom’ that he as the finance minister had brought about.

When asked for his response to former law minister Wasi Zafar’s claim that he was not taken into confidence about the reference against the chief justice, Mr Aziz dismissed his former cabinet colleague as someone not worth wasting his breath on. He, however, claimed that it was he and General Hamid Javed who had warned Musharraf that CJ Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry would not take his dismissal lying down.

When reminded about Musharraf’s claim that he had only forwarded the reference sent to him by the prime minister, Mr Aziz sidestepped the question but said rather meaningfully that the president was known for standing by his friends.

Giving a self-serving spin to the allegations levelled against him by General Qayyum of the Pakistan Steel Mills and General Jamshed Kyani of the Federal Public Service Commission, Mr Aziz said he had put these two generals, who were trying to browbeat him with their army connections, in their place.

According to him, General Qayyum wanted the PM to allow him to open the L/C for taking in hand the expansion process of the Pakistan Steel Mills. “You know what that means,” he said, alleging corruption on the part of the former Pakistan Steel Mills chairman without actually levelling the charge in so many words.

“We had already decided to privatise the mills so there was no logic in starting the process of expansion before privatisation,” he said reinforcing his argument.

He said the Federal Public Service Commission was only a recommending agency and the prime minister was not constitutionally obliged to accept all its recommendations.

He disassociated himself from the Lal Masjid bloodbath saying: “It was completely a military operation.”

He agreed that the PML-Q was not a political party but a group of opportunists and said that he had to be on guard all the time because his own party

was out to pull the rug from under his feet at the slightest of excuse, “and there were as many as 12 potential prime ministers all jostling all the time to push me over”.