United States prevented a near coup in Pakistan


·         Washington Post says settlement between Zardari and Nawaz was brokered by Obama administration

Pakistan came perilously close last month to a political breakdown that could have triggered a military coup, the Washington Post has claimed.

The newspaper says a settlement between the government of President Asif Ali Zardari and former prime minister Nawaz Sharif was finally brokered by the Obama administration.

President Zardari’s allies, the paper says, had tried to cripple Nawaz Sharif, his main political rival. The opposition leader’s response, a long march to Islamabad, then threatened a street battle that could have forced General Ashfaq Kiyani, the army chief of staff, to intervene.

If the confrontation demonstrated the fragility of Pakistani politics, its resolution showed that the three key players – Zardari, Nawaz and Kiyani – are not suicidal, the paper says. “I think Pakistan’s politicians are growing up. They are realising that you have to meet the people’s needs or you get kicked out,” said Shuja Nawaz.

For the Obama administration, the Pakistani crisis posed its first big diplomatic test. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, special envoy Holbrooke and Admiral Mullen prevailed upon the Pakistani leaders to back away from the brink. According to the paper Zardari had asked the army chief to stop the march to protect Islamabad. After discussing the matter with Mullen Kiyani refused and instead called on Nawaz telling him to return to Lahore. He also called Aitzaz Ahsan to stop in Gujranwala and wait for a government announcement.

The paper also claims that Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani told the president that he would resign if the chief justice was not reinstated. It acknowledges that this version is disputed. That Gilani went on television at 5am to announce that the former chief justice would return, of course, is history. The paper says pressure for compromise came from Clinton and Holbrooke who phoned both Zardari and Nawaz. The American reportedly signalled to Nawaz that they would not object to his becoming president or prime minister some day. David Miliband, the British foreign secretary, too, was reported to have urged dialogue with Nawaz.

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