KARACHI: American officials took a decidedly disapproving view of President Zardari’s handling of his political showdown with the Sharifs in early 2009, which intensified after the Supreme Court declared the brothers ineligible for office in February that year.
The SC judgment was seen as being driven by the President and “demonstrates, disappointingly, that Zardari continues to play politics while his country disintegrates,” the Islamabad embassy wrote. In a meeting with the diplomatic corps, who reportedly questioned the need for the SC decision, then Law Minister Farooq Naek “barely could keep a straight face when he replied with ‘judicial independence’ as the real culprit of this political crisis.”
When asked by American officials about the timing of the move, PPP parliamentarian Farahnaz Ispahani claimed the government “‘had no choice’ because Prime Minister Yousuf Gilani had entered into discussions with Shahbaz on February 23. ‘We are very unhappy with the way Gilani has gone off the reservation’ while Zardari was in China, she said.”
It was in America’s interests, US Ambassador Anne Patterson advised on March 7, 2009, to “ease Zardari off the ledge he has walked onto.” Referring to his initial refusal to restore deposed Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, she commented that “his moves had ‘all become reminiscent of Musharraf’s obsession with the former Chief Justice, to the detriment of his own rule and government control over the tribal areas.’”
Later that month, however, Ms Patterson warned the State Department not to “count Zardari out yet - we expect he has more (and not necessarily good) cards to play.”
Cables referenced: WikiLeaks # 193807, 194540, 195795, 197042. All cables are available on Dawn.com.