The first sentence of the AP report on the new Prime Minister of Pakistan, Yousaf Raza Gilani, is rather telling:
When former parliament speaker Yousaf Raza Gilani was first tipped as a contender to be prime minister, he quipped that taking high office in Pakistan’s cutthroat politics could fast-track him back to prison. (link)
Wait — back to prison?
In fact, Gilani spent five years in prison on corruption charges that may have been political in nature, and was only released in October 2006. Musharraf can’t be thrilled that a person his government once accused of defrauding the government of millions ($30 million, to be exact) is now running an overwhelmingly dominant coalition government against him. (As a side note, I find it interesting that Gilani was actually a member of Zia Ul-Haq’s government in the early 1980s, before switching over to the PPP. I haven’t been able to ascertain anywhere why he switched — what Zia stood for ideologically is quite the opposite of the PPP. Does anyone have the scoop on this aspect of Gilani’s past?)
The media is reporting that the real power will still lie with Asif Ali Zardari, Benazir Bhutto’s widower, and president of the PPP. Zardari, for his part, really was corrupt (charges against him too have been dropped recently), so if one believes that Gilani’s status as PM will mean a lesser likelihood of a return to the bad old days of the Benazir Bhutto regimes, one might be relieved at this turn of events.
Then again, there is also a suggestion that Zardari will run for Parliament in a by-election this summer, which would qualify him to be Prime Minister. If I were Zardari I might skip that step, and wait until Musharraf steps down as President. One would expect him to aim for the office where the real power lies in Pakistan — the Presidency.
Finally, the big question on everyone’s minds has to be the status of the former Supreme Court justices, who were detained last fall and also recently released (but not reinstated). If the new Parliament decides to go the route of confronting Musharraf directly, will not the poop hit the punkah [pukka in Punjabi]? Will Musharraf step down without a fight?