Pakistan army wanted to bring down President Zardari, but at the same time avoid elections to prevent Nawaz Sharif taking charge, US diplomatic cables leaked by Wikileaks stated. The cable dated 12 March 2009 reported U.S. diplomat Anne W. Patterson meeting General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, Pakistan's Chief of Army staff.
General Kayani on March 10, again hinted that he might, however reluctantly, have to persuade President Zardari to resign if the situation sharply deteriorates, Patterson said in the cable.
This would not be a formal coup but would leave in place the PPP (Pakistan Peoples Party) government led by PM Gilani, thus avoiding elections that likely would bring Nawaz Sharif to power, the cable added.
Kayani suggested Asfundyar Wali Khan, the leader of Awami National Party, as a replacement to Asif Ali Zardari. The US diplomat in the cable maintained that the army action was not imminent, but Kayani was warning the Washington in advance.
Kayani is trying to leverage what he considers predominate U.S. influence over Zardari, instead of seeking a direct confrontation that could provoke an unhelpful civil-military clash, Patterson stated in the cable.
The cable, which was sent out six months after former president General Pervez Musharraf resigned from his seat, demonstrates the continuing influence of the Pakistan army in deciding the political course of the country. Zardari's attempt to forbid Nawz Sharif from contesting in the polls and his refusal to reinstate Iftikhar Chaudhry, the deposed chief justice, pushed the president into a tight spot. Western diplomats reportedly sought help of General Kayani to calm down an influential protest movement of opposition supporters and lawyers.
Meanwhile, the UK also expressed concerns over Zardari's leadership. A diplomatic cable in October 2008 read that London was pessimistic about Pakistan, especially in light of Zardari's poor leadership and the bad economy.
The current National Security Adviser Peter Ricketts characterized Zardari as having not much sense of how to govern a country. Chief of the Defense Staff Jock Stirrup asserted that Zardari was clearly a 'numbskull'.
I fear he talks and talks but not much happens, Rickets said.
The British diplomats also stated that the Pakistani leadership was not troubled by U.S. Predator strikes that kill Arabs and Taliban, although Stirrup cautioned that such attitudes could change.