Pakistan in 3-pronged political crisis
DPA PAKISTAN, a nuclear power and key Western ally in the fight against Taliban insurgents, is facing its biggest political crisis in recent years.
Lines are drawn for a showdown between the military and civilian government, and the judiciary is also trying to rein in the administration.
Some analysts believe the escalating conflict between the three powers could lead to the dismissal of the unpopular government and result in early elections.
The worst-case scenario is a military coup, which could occur if the government tries to sack army chief general Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and Lieutenant General Shuja Pasha, the head of powerful Inter Services Intelligence. But that seems a remote possibility.
A dramatic turn came early this week when the Supreme Court cited Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani for contempt.
He was due to appear in court on Thursday.
The judiciary lost patience over the government’s refusal to implement its orders to ask Swiss authorities to reopen cases of money laundering against President Asif Ali Zardari.
The charges date back to the 1990s when Zardari’s late wife Benazir Bhutto was prime minister. He is alleged to have received commissions for contracts and transferred the money to Swiss banks.
At the request of the Pakistani government, Swiss investigations were closed.
That was part of a complex political deal made by former military dictator Pervez Musharraf and Bhutto.
Gilani’s government says the cases against Zardari cannot be re-opened because he enjoys immunity as president.
But the judiciary headed by fiercely independent Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry is demanding respect for the rule of law and for court orders.
An independent judiciary is new to all in Pakistan, including politicians and generals. In the past, appointing judges of their choice would lend legitimacy and cover to their actions.
At the same time, the powerful army generals and the government are at daggers drawn over a memo allegedly sent by a Zardari envoy asking US officials to prevent a possible military coup, after Osama bin Laden was killed by US commandos on May 2
The army said Zardari approved the memo, and demanded he be tried for treason.
The government denied the existence of the memo.