Troubled Zardari ready to quit: Report

Islamabad: Pakistan`s beleaguered President Asif Ali Zardari is ready to resign and call an early general elections if parties in the ruling coalition wanted him to take such a step, according to a media report today.

Zardari made the announcement while chairing a meeting of the top leadership of the ruling Pakistan People`s Party and its coalition partners on Tuesday night after the Supreme Court warned that action could be taken against him and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani for failing to reopen high-profile graft cases, The News daily quoted its sources as saying.

The President, who is also co-chairman of the PPP, told his allies "that he was elected as the President with their help, and if they wanted, he was ready to resign and even to hold new elections", the report said.

There was no mention of Zardari`s offer to quit in a statement issued by the presidency after the meeting. The statement said the leaders of the ruling coalition had decided to call an urgent session of parliament to discuss the apex court`s warning.

The President cut short a visit to Karachi and rushed back to Islamabad On Tuesday for a series of meetings that assessed the fallout of the apex court`s order in a case related to the National Reconciliation Ordinance, a graft amnesty that had benefited Zardari and over 8,000 others.

Since the apex court struck down the NRO in December 2009, it has been pressuring the government to reopen cases of alleged money laundering against Zardari in Switzerland. The government has refused to do so, saying the President enjoys immunity from prosecution under the Constitution.

During the meeting of the PPP and its coalition partners, some leaders like PML-Q chief Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and Awami National Party head Asfandyar Wali Khan advised the government to avoid an "emotional reaction" and to find a way forward in keeping with a policy of reconciliation. However, some hawks within the PPP advocated the adoption of an "aggressive stance" and asked the government to move ahead with a "no-surrender policy".

Zardari assured his allies that he would "go to last stage to save democracy and democratic institutions as he did not believe in confrontation", The News reported. At the same time, Zardari made it clear that there would be "no compromise on principles".

Prime Minister Gilani said the elected representatives of the people would "not take dictation from anyone for following the Constitution". Gilani was quoted as saying: "The parliament is a supreme institution of the country."

The Express Tribune quoted its sources as saying that an "overwhelming majority of the core committee members" of the PPP, which too met on Tuesday night, wanted to "fight the party`s case in the full glare of the public eye".

However, "quieter voices" urged the PPP leadership not to adopt a confrontational posture. The PPP and its allies also considered a proposal to bring a resolution in parliament in support of the government.