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The Plot Thickens in Pakistan

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President Asif Ali Zardari is back from Dubai, where he went to seek medical treatment. His departure from the national scene set off a number of rumors. The most popular being that he will not return and will possibly resign. In response, the president went to the extent of talking about waging a war against the constitution if some action is taken against him. Neither the rumors nor the threat has materialized. There are, however, shadows of a coup in the making.

At least that is the assessment of the prime minister of Pakistan, Yousuf Raza Gilani. The premier, who is constitutionally powerful but a stooge to Zardari in reality, is fearing the army might pack up the government with the memogate scandal running as the central theme. The issue has been picked up by the supreme court where the government is saying the apex court does not have the jurisdiction on the matter -- a stance not favored by the judges.

It is not Gilani but Zardari who is at the center of the storm. The president, who is also the co-chairman of the ruling Pakistan's Peoples Party, has a history of constitutional violations. As discussed before, he technically has very little powers but has encroached upon the turf of Gilani, who has accommodated him.

The ensuing circus has baffled everyone, including the Americans. Ironically, during times of real democracy in Pakistan from 1988-99, they engaged solely with the elected prime ministers. It was also around this time that the military establishment saw its power waning -- Nawaz Sharif even dismissed an army chief. Technically speaking, he also sacked General Pervez Musharraf though the latter was successful in staging a coup. Before that, in the 1970s, Americans held court with Bhutto, who was also an elected prime minister.

Not this time. Their preference for Zardari has complicated things. The arrangement has worked for the last three years but seems like it is inching towards an ugly end. The supreme court is growing wary of the presidential theatrics. The judges want Zadari's reply in important cases as the chairman of his political party. They do not get it because the president asserts his constitutional immunity in response. Now they have asked him to submit reply as the president, which has again fallen on deaf ears.

The presidential immunity will not deter Zardari from lashing out at his opponents at the upcoming death anniversary of his wife Benazir Bhutto. As has become the norm, the president takes the stage as a political leader and projects himself as the savior of Pakistan.

Pakistanis hate the presidential antics. They do not want military rule either. The encouraging thing for Gilani is the fact that the opposition is not welcoming to the idea of a coup. The opposition leader in the parliament has offered his help as long as the government relies on the elected representatives, instead of relying on backdoor machinations.

The supreme court is also likely to thwart any nefarious attempts by the military. Then there is the powerful media that will not stay quiet. Even the military chief has dismissed such rumors.

There is still hope for Gilani, who can overcome his fears by fulfilling his duties as the prime minister. Zardari can also save his skin if he is eager to adopt the same role as of Ms. Partibha Patil, the president of India. This will require rising above his political affiliations and letting go of his administrative duties . That's what his real job description actually is. Given his track record, however, there is little hope of that. The power-hungry and constitution-mocking president of Pakistan is digging his own grave.