Pakistan’s main opposition leader Nawaz Sharif is demanding early elections amid speculation that a president weakened by illness and scandal will not complete his five-year mandate.
President Asif Ali Zardari returned home on Monday after two weeks of medical treatment in Dubai for an illness that has not been publicly disclosed, but which aides have likened to a mini-stroke with no lasting damage.
He came back with the Supreme Court deciding whether to investigate a memo allegedly written by one of Zardari’s closest advisers with his support in order to ask for American help in curbing the power of the military.
Husain Haqqani, Pakistan’s ambassador to Washington, was forced to resign over the scandal and flatly denies the accusations from a U.S. businessman.
“The government’s credibility has already been damaged and it is in the incumbents’ interests to hold early polls to maintain some credibility,” Sharif told Pakistan’s private TV channel Geo and newspaper The News late Tuesday.
Sharif, who petitioned the Supreme Court to investigate the memo, is also thought to be nervous about the momentum behind cricket hero Imran Khan, who has taken Pakistan by storm with a series of huge campaign rallies.
“Lawlessness, power cuts, price hikes and unemployment have made people’s lives miserable. New elections are the only solution,” a spokesman for the Pakistan Muslim League-N party, Siddiqul Farooq, told AFP on Wednesday.
Zardari has survived multiple crises and calls for his resignation since taking office in 2008, but his return to Pakistan has done little to quieten the latest speculation in the local media that his days are numbered.
Although elections are not due before February 2013, many observers expect polls some time in 2012.
No civilian leader in Pakistan has ever completed a full term in office.