Zardari allied with Sharifs to end Musharraf rule

Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari appears to have kicked off the PPP`s campaign for the 2013 general election.

Lahore: Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari has said that he forged an alliance with PML-N leaders Nawaz Sharif and Shahbaz Sharif after the 2008 general election only to send then military ruler Pervez Musharraf packing.

"I gave concessions to the Sharif brothers to get rid of Musharraf," Zardari said while interacting with newspaper editors and workers of his Pakistan People`s Party at the Governor`s House here last evening.

He further said: "The Sharifs have stiff necks and I know how to humble them."

Zardari, who has been camping in the capital of Punjab province for the past few days, appears to have kicked off the PPP`s campaign for the 2013 general election by targeting former premier Nawaz Sharif and his brother, Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif.

Following the fractured mandate in the 2008 general election, the PPP and PML-N formed a short-lived coalition at the centre.

The alliance ended within six months after Nawaz Sharif accused Zardari of failing to deliver on several promises. The PPP continues to lead the ruling coalition at the centre while the PML-N rules Punjab, the country`s most populous province.

During yesterday`s interaction, Zardari said the PPP would form the government in Punjab after the 2013 polls because the people would reject the Sharif brothers for their "arrogant" politics.

"The Sharifs` PML-N does not have a majority in Punjab but we never tried to topple their government," he said. Zardari asked PPP workers to begin preparing for the upcoming elections.

He told them he would visit all divisions of Punjab before the polls to strengthen the PPP in the province. The PPP usually comes to power in hard times and the party`s government at the centre had completed four years of its five-year term, he said.

Zardari said PPP workers who had made sacrifices for the party will not be ignored and that he would remain in contact with them and continued visiting Lahore.

Earlier, the President had reportedly said that the Sharifs could not muster enough followers to attend the funeral of their father in Lahore.

Following criticism of these remarks, PPP leaders sought to play down the matter.

"The President did not say anything on the funeral of the father of the Sharif brothers," Information Minister Firdous Ashiq Awan said.

Zardari will remain in Lahore till Sunday, when he will leave for a private day-long visit to India. He is scheduled to meet the Indian Premier over lunch before travelling to Ajmer to offer prayers at the Sufi shrine of Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti. Pakistan has billed Zardari`s trip as a "private visit" aimed at fulfilling a long-standing desire to offer prayers at the famous 13th century Sufi shrine of Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti at Ajmer in Rajasthan.

Zardari has visited the shrine in the past with his slain wife, former premier Benazir Bhutto.

The President would be accompanied by his 23-year-old son Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, the nominal chief of the ruling Pakistan People`s Party besides others.

There was no official word on the composition of the delegation that will accompany the President though officials said it would be small.

Basit said he had no information on whether Bilawal would meet Rahul Gandhi.

"I have no knowledge of a meeting between Bilawal and Rahul Gandhi as this is a brief visit.”

“The stopover in New Delhi will be brief as the real objective is to go to Ajmer," he said.

Basit underlined, "The basic objective of the President`s visit is to pay obeisance at the shrine of Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti at Ajmer Sharif."

He acknowledged that the visit was "important" as the two countries were currently engaged in the second round of the dialogue process that began last year after a gap of over two years in the wake of the 2008 Mumbai attacks, carried out by Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Toiba.

"We expect this round (of the dialogue) to be completed in June-July. After that, the Indian foreign minister is to visit Pakistan to review the process," Basit said.

The visit is also important because Pakistan expects it will "help translate the President`s vision of regional cooperation and connectivity" into reality, he added.

India and Pakistan have taken some steps to normalise relations since they resumed their peace process last year, especially in the field of trade.

Pakistan recently switched over to a negative list regime for trade, paving the way for giving India Most Favoured Nation-status by the beginning of next year.

The two sides plan to boost trade from the current level of USD two billion a year to USD six billion by 2014.


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