Islamabad: Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari had been advised to quit when it became known that the Supreme Court would strike down an amnesty against graft but he had rejected the plea in unequivocal terms, a media report on Monday said.
Quoting well-placed sources, Online news agency said the heads of "top level institutions and other top functionaries had held a secret meeting with the chief of another institution. They were the institutions that had remained in the forefront during the process of issuing the NRO (National Reconciliation Ordinance) and they did not want their names to come into the open and wanted Zardari to isolate himself from his office in a dignified way".
When the Supreme Court’s decision on the NRO was imminent, the heads of "certain institutions had met one another and they later kept on meeting Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gillani. They sent umpteen messages to the President to resign" and retain only the post of ruling Pakistan Peoples Party co-chair "as the judicial verdict could deteriorate the situation", Online said.
Sources close to the presidency told Online that the president had taunted the individual who had given the advice, saying: "I don`t care if the decision is against or in favour of me. I will face the challenges. I am habitual of it."
While Online did not name the "institutions" it is clear that one of these is the military. Then president Pervez Musharraf, who had issued the NRO in October 2007, was also the army chief at the time.
More significantly, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, the current Army Chief, had, at Musharraf`s behest, held extensive discussions with former prime minister Benazir Bhutto to persuade her to return home from self-exile.
Kayani had assured Bhutto that her return, as also that of her husband, Zardari, would be facilitated by the NRO. Kayani had served as deputy military secretary in Bhutto`s first government in 1988.
There were reports at the time that Musharraf`s game plan was to enter into a power-sharing arrangement with Bhutto under which he would remain the president and Bhutto would get her old job back after the general elections originally scheduled for January 2008.
Bhutto`s assassination on December 27, 2007 in a gun and bomb attack as she left a political rally in the adjacent garrison town of Rawalpindi, however, upset the applecart.
Now, with the Supreme Court invalidating the NRO and ordering the revival of the cases that had lapsed because of it, Zardari faces the very real possibility of going to jail.
Apart from Bhutto and Zardari, some 250 politicians, bureaucrats and retired military officers had also benefited from the NRO.
All that is now history.