Zardari sees Aitzaz Ahsan as mentor to Bilawal

Zardari took everyone by surprise by effusively praising Ahsan and asking him to deliver the final speech.

Islamabad: Pakistan`s embattled President
Asif Ali Zardari has asked former minister Aitzaz Ahsan to act
as a mentor to his son Bilawal if "anything were to happen to
him," sources said, amid reports that the outspoken PPP leader
is being tipped as a likely replacement for Premier Yousuf
Raza Gilani.

Zardari had reached out to Ahsan, one of Pakistan`s
leading lawyers and former Interior Minister, after he became
embroiled in the controversy over a secret memo that sought US
help to stave off a possible coup in Pakistan following the
killing of Osama bin Laden.

During a long phone conversation with Ahsan while he was
in Dubai to seek treatment for a heart condition, Zardari had
asked the Cambridge-educated lawyer to act as a mentor to his
23-year-old son Bilawal if "anything were to happen to him,"
senior PPP officials and other sources said.

Zardari`s decision to ask Ahsan to speak after him at a
massive rally yesterday too has triggered speculation that
Ahsan may be given a key position in the government.
The President was expected to be the main speaker at a
public meeting organised by the PPP at Garhi Khuda Baksh in
Sindh to mark the death anniversary of his wife, former
Premier Benazir Bhutto.

Zardari took everyone by surprise by effusively praising
Ahsan and asking him to deliver the final speech.
Reports in a section of the media said that Ahsan was
being tipped as a likely replacement for Premier Gilani.

One report quoted an unnamed presidential aide as saying
that the possibility of replacing Gilani with Ahsan was being
considered "as a serious option".

Ahsan denied that he was being considered for the post of
Premier. "You have to be (a Parliamentarian) to be Prime
Minister," he told The News.

Though Ahsan acknowledged that he could be elected to
Parliament through a bye-poll, he questioned why anyone would
do so "for such a short term".

The current National Assembly`s term ends in early 2013.
Analysts also noted that Zardari had made it clear in his
speech yesterday that politics had been left to Gilani and his
team and that the Prime Minister was the chief executive.
This, they said, was an indication that Gilani was
unlikely to be replaced immediately.

Sources said the pressure on the President from military
over the memogate scandal had forced Zardari to re-evaluate
his options regarding the future of both the PPP and Bilawal.

It was in this context that he asked Ahsan to play a role in guiding Bilawal, the Chairman of the PPP, the sources said.

Zardari`s abrupt visit to Dubai earlier this month and
his stay there for almost a fortnight fuelled speculation that
he might be forced out of the presidency by the military.

Tensions between the government and the military have
continued as the two sides have adopted divergent stands in
the Supreme Court on the need for a probe into the memo issue.

Ahsan played an important role in the PPP`s affairs in
the months before Benazir Bhutto returned to Pakistan from
self-exile in October 2007. However, his proximity to the
lawyers` movement that campaigned for restoration of judges
sacked by ex-military ruler Pervez Musharraf led to him being
sidelined by Zardari after he became President in 2008.

Zardari delayed on restoring the sacked judges, including
Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, till the PML-N
launched a massive countrywide protest in March 2009.

Ahsan`s outspoken support to the judges led to his
estrangement from Zardari and his aides.

During his stint as Interior Minister in Benazir Bhutto`s
government in the late 1980s, Ahsan had shared with Indian
authorities a list of Sikh terrorists involved in the
Khalistan movement.


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