In Pakistan, ex-foreign minister calls for president to resign after bin Laden raid

Pakistan’s recently ousted foreign minister called Saturday for the resignation of President Asif Ali Zardari and his prime minister, saying that a U.S. commando raid on the compound of Osama bin Laden represented a failure of government.

Shah Mahmood Qureshi, a senior ruling-party lawmaker who was sidelined by his party in a cabinet reshuffle this year, is viewed as close to the Pakistani military, and his demand was widely thought to reflect that institution’s thinking. It followed nearly a week of outrage directed toward the normally redoubtable army and rumors that one of Pakistan’s most powerful men, Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha, the spy chief, was under pressure to resign over the killing of bin Laden, who was located in a garrison city.

Qureshi’s comments were another sign that the bin Laden operation was evolving into political ammunition that could damage Pakistan’s civilian government, which had initially appeared to be shielded from the controversy.

As anger centered on intelligence and army failures, some government officials expressed hope that the incident might even prop up a civilian administration that is frequently at odds with — and believed to be undermined by — the powerful military establishment.

Zardari, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani and the army chief, Gen. Ashfaq Kayani, met Saturday to discuss the bin Laden raid, according to Pakistani news reports. In a statement, Gillani said that the three had “comprehensively reviewed” the operation and that he would address Parliament on Monday.

While acknowledging they have no direct evidence, U.S. officials and lawmakers have said they doubt that bin Laden could have lived in Abbottabad, a city that is home to major military units, without the knowledge of Pakistani army or intelligence. The army has denied this, and it has responded to domestic criticism by condemning the U.S. raid as a violation of sovereignty.

But in recent days, the government has become the focus of scrutiny, both by the military and by opposition politicians.

In a meeting with Pakistani journalists, Pasha and Kayani complained that Zardari and Gillani had not discussed the nation’s counterterrorism operations “even once during the last three years,” according to the News, an English-language daily.

On Saturday, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, the leader of the main opposition party, the Pakistan Muslim League-N, criticized Zardari for not having addressed the public about the bin Laden raid. Qureshi, the former foreign minister, told reporters in the eastern city of Lahore that it was the responsibility of “the president and prime minister to resign and no one else.”

Qureshi has said he was removed from his post because he defied the U.S.-backed government when he determined that Raymond Davis, a CIA contractor who was jailed after shooting two Pakistanis, was not entitled to diplomatic immunity.

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