WASHINGTON DC, July 29, 2005 | ISSN: 1684-2057 | www.satribune.com

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Close friend Shaukat Aziz received by Paul Wolfowitz at the Pentagon

Aziz May Join World Bank: Hamid Chattha Emerging Consensus Leader

By M A Siddiqui and Shaheen Sehbai

WASHINGTON/KARACHI, July 29: The World Bank corridors in Washington are humming with whispered expectations and corporate speculations that Pakistan’s Prime Minister, Citibanker Shaukat Aziz, a long time buddy of WB President Paul Wolfowitz, is soon going to join the world body as Managing Director.

Wolfowitz is understood to have offered Aziz the top job because the World Bank needs to fill in one of the two vacancies of MDs, the one from Asia. The other MD comes from Africa. Wolfowitz believes Aziz would be the right candidate as big Asian players including China and India will not have any serious objection to Aziz, who has lived in the US for 30 years before joining the Musharraf team as Finance Minister in 1999 and later getting a promotion as Prime Minister.

But since Musharraf has not allowed any real powers to the Parliament or the PM, Aziz wants to get out of the Pakistan mess with his honor and image intact and the WB job may be the best chance he could get.

According to a well informed Islamabad analyst, Nusrat Javeed of “The News”, the sudden cancellation of the Aziz visit to the White House and the way the Pakistan Foreign Office dismissed the cancellation as of no importance, hurt Aziz deeply as he was expecting some glory in the world limelight as a guest of President Bush.

Nusrat wrote recently: “The spokesperson of our Foreign Office has not helped either by spinning the story that the US visit of Shaukat Aziz was never “finalized.” It is a laughable excuse, only helping the doomsayers, who keep insisting that prime ministers working under the praetorian wings always ask for trouble with their desire of getting ‘direct’ with American leaders and decision makers.”

"Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali began rushing to his fall by publicly asking for the pat on our back during his call on President Bush. The flight of Shaukat Aziz in the same context could not be allowed as well," Nusrat wrote.

This news circulating in the World Bank coincides with behind the scene maneuvers in Islamabad to break the political logjam to induct the mainstream liberal political parties in the system and isolate the radical religious right which is now becoming a threat not only to the country but to the Army itself.

General Musharraf met Shaukat Aziz, one on one, for the second time within a week on Wednesday, July 27, for what was publicly presented as a routine meeting with one briefing the other about his foreign trips and a general discussion on the country’s political and security situation. But analysts say these meetings may be more than what meets the eye. The two leaders may be discussing their future association.

These backdoor moves involve a longtime Benazir Bhutto ally and politically trusted leader Hamid Nasir Chattha who has been actively meeting the various relevant players in and outside Pakistan. Chattha is currently in the PML-Q and Chairman of the Kashmir Committee, enjoying a Minister's status. Interestingly in all Kashmir Committee meetings, PPP parliamentarians including Makhdoom Amin Faheem, are regular participants and they go along well with Chattha.

With this background, Chattha is being tipped as the head of a National Government in which both Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif, or their nominees and parties, are substantial stakeholders.

In a moment when he revealed more than he should have, PPP’s top ranking leader Makhdoom Amin Faheem was heard saying that such a deal under Chattha was possible and people were working on it.

Even in his recent analysis, Nusrat Javeed posed the all-important question: “Where is Hamid Nasir Chattha these days and does he really have anything to do with the grand government of national reconciliation, many people in Islamabad have been waiting for since months?”

Under the proposed arrangement the basic concessions to Benazir and Nawaz Sharif would be the withdrawal of the Swiss cases and end of exile, or a time table to end the exile, much shorter than the stipulated 10 years.

But to many political analysts and observers, all these possibilities and proposals appear to be part of the pattern of psy-op games which the Pakistan Army has now become quite good at playing.

These games grow in intensity whenever there is some pressure on the Generals, either because of their double games on terrorism, or their secret alliance with the Mullas who always do something to bail out the Army, though apparently it may appear that they are in opposition, or if the pressure from the West to induct mainstream political parties in power sharing increases.

As part of this pattern, political analysts recall, the highly disruptive talk of “national reconciliation” was coined and feelers were thrown in that Army was talking to the PPP and Benazir Bhutto through Asif Ali Zardari. The PPP got caught in that trap and started believing that the Generals were sincere in a deal.

Thus the PPP took a very soft line when Asif Zardari returned to Lahore amid unprecedented enthusiasm and excitement not seen for years in the PPP cadre. But the return of Zardari, instead of building up on that momentum, defused the situation through some soft statements of Mr Zardari himself as well as admission by the PPP that secret negotiations were going on. Nothing however came out as the Army was playing its games and the moment pressure was off, all talk of concessions or a deal was off the table.

Likewise these psy-ops games have also played havoc with the Sharif family when through calculated moves the impression was created that Shahbaz Sharif was moving away from his elder brother and was being preferred as a possible option under a re-united Muslim league. Nawaz Sharif, however, understood the games much better and stood his ground.

Then the passport issue of Nawaz Sharif was used to create further confusion in the Opposition ranks when suddenly PPP was forced to seek clarifications from the Sharifs on what was going on. That issue also created some confusion but failed to make a serious dent in Opposition unity.

The latest move of the Mulla-military alliance is the Hasba Act which was thrown into the political arena by the MMA at a critical time when all main Opposition parties, including the PPP, PML-N and MMA were about to reach a consensus and announce a joint strategy against the Army rule.

The Hasba Act derailed the Opposition talks and both PPP and PML-N started criticizing the MMA for something which took the focus off their joint target. It helped the Army in a way no friend could have helped.

In such a situation and with the Local Bodies polls round the corner, the talk of a National Government is, to many analysts, one more ploy of the Army to divert attention and confuse the players.

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