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Presidency Abuzz as Capital Hums with Familiar Chatter

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Posted by on Friday, December 2, 2011, 9:45
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While the talk of troubling times ahead for the government have been heard before, the country’s leadership is not taking the buzz lightly.

Asif Ali Zardari
Asif Ali Zardari

President Asif Ali Zardari vowed on Thursday to confront all challenges faced by the government with courage – and in private he warned his close associates about a ‘grave’ situation unfolding before the government. He went as far as to ask party members to begin preparations for general elections as a contingency plan – though the polls are, on paper, over a year away.

Hectic consultations, which had been taking place in the Presidency for the past few days, further intensified on Thursday after the Supreme Court passed a spate of orders in its first hearing of the Memogate petition – filed by leader of the opposition party, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N)

The apex court barred the country’s former envoy to the US from leaving, while a commission, headed by former FIA chief Tariq Khosa, investigates his role in the memogate affair.

Soon after the court announced its decision, the senior leadership of the PPP convened in the Presidency. The meeting was followed by a fiery joint press conference in response to the court’s decision. In what appears to be a reaction to the court’s decision, and the rumours of impending trouble for the government, the Presidency issued a statement in which President Zardari said that being a “spiritual son” of Zulifkar Ali Bhutto he knew how to confront all kinds of challenges and he would do so.

Addressing the nation and PPP workers in the statement, the president said that Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto had full trust in him and the nation should have faith in the trust reposed by her, spokesperson Farhatullah Babar quoted the president as saying.

“We were already aware of what was going to transpire … We already knew this since last night” a PPP leader who attended the meeting in the Presidency told The Express Tribune, referring to the court’s decision. The president has held a one-on-one session with over a dozen parliamentarians of the party in the past two days to consult them on the emerging situation.

On Thursday, the president and Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani also held a one-on-one meeting.

The president is also keeping the leadership of his coalition partners in the loop over the emerging scenario. Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) chief Altaf Hussain spoke to President Zardari on the phone on Thursday. According to a press release issued by the MQM, the two leaders “discussed the overall political and economic situation in the country and other important national issues.”

The president also met with president of Awami National Party Asfandyar Wali Khan and spoke to JUI-F chief Maulana Fazl-ur-Rehman on Thursday.

“President Zardari is a man of strong nerves. I have seen him anxious for the first time since we assumed power after 2008 polls,” a PPP leader said after meeting him, adding that the president hadn’t ruled out the possibility of early elections.

“Earlier the party had March in mind – for next year’s Senate elections. But now there is no timeline,” he quoted the president as saying.

In addition, a lawmaker who also met with the president, said that the Presidency had decided to set up a focal office to facilitate members in release of funds for development schemes, a sign that the party was possibly gearing up to contest elections earlier than expected. “The president has directed us to expedite development schemes. The government would provide its members all the necessary funds” the lawmaker said.

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