November 29, 2009
As amnesty expires, Pakistan's Zardari seen as on way out
A day after he ceded formal control of Pakistan's nuclear weapons to the Pakistani prime minister, some U.S. South Asia hands forecast that Pakistan's president Asif Ali Zardari is on the way out of power.
"Zardari is in a slow road to the exit," one U.S. South Asia expert who requested anonymity said Sunday. "He can't easily survive politically, but it will likely be a constitutional process that pushes him out."
Zardari's move to hand over formal control of Pakistan's nuclear weapons to Pakistani prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani "is part of his attempt to make concessions," the South Asia hand continued.
His comments came as a national reconciliation ordinance that had provided Zardari and several other of his cabinet officials amnesty from prosecution expired Sunday.
"Now that the NRO is going to expire and he's not immune from prosecution, he is trying to make deals," the expert said. "He could hang on in a diminished role or he could go fast."
The Washington South Asia hand said the U.S. did not think it needed "a contingency plan as long as things proceed constitutionally."
"The official removal of Zaradari's command over the nukes may be a sign he is on the way out, but I don't ever believe the Pakistan military followed his command," said Gretchen Peters, author of Seeds of Terror. "In the relatively brief periods that civilian governments have officially controlled Pakistan over the past two decades, they have in reality had little or no real power over the Pakistan military. President Zardari has enjoyed no more command or control over the armed forces than his late wife Benazir Bhutto did when she was prime minister. Instead, the military has always played the political marionette from behind the scenes."
Obama is expected to announce his Afghanistan policy on Tuesday. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton are expected to brief Congressional committees on Wednesday.
Posted by Laura Rozen 05:15 PM