Hot on the heels of yesterday’s report that the Obama Administration was losing faith in the “very fragile” civilian government led by Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, administration officials are now confirming that they are courting opposition leader and former prime minister Nawaz Sharif.
Though he has since denied saying it, General David Petraeus has reportedly said that the next two weeks are critical to determining whether or not the Pakistani government will survive, and President Obama says the US has “huge national security interests in making sure that Pakistan is stable.” One Pentagon official had reportedly called Zardari “very, very weak.”
Prime Minister before the coup d’etat by former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, Sharif was involved in a major power struggle with the Zardari Administration after the Supreme Court banned him and his brother from public office for opposing the Musharraf coup. The ban sparked massive protests in March, during which Sharif called for a revolution and was placed under house arrest for “sedition.” The ban was ultimately lifted, reportedly at the behest of the military and over the objections of Zardari.
Yet Sharif’s conservative Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Party has often been at odds with the United States, has closer ties to the religious Islamist factions than the ruling Pakistani Peoples Party (PPP), and would likely be more reluctant to launch military operations on behalf of the Obama Administration than Zardari has been. If they aren’t happy with Zardari, it’s hard to imagine they’ll be any happier with Sharif.