President Zardari lacked the full backing of the Army and US that his predecessor Musharraf enjoyed, Pakistani and US officials say.
Pakistan's government capitulated Monday to opposition demands to restore judicial independence after the country's powerful Army and the United States refused to give President Asif Ali Zardari full and unqualified backing, Pakistani and US officials said.
A tumultuous week that began with protest marches and a harsh nationwide crackdown could have exploded into violence Monday, but instead the government publicly agreed at 6 a.m. to the demonstrators' key demand to reinstate Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry, the former chief justice.
The announcement by Prime Minister Yousef Raza Gilani came hours before a massive throng of lawyers, opposition parties, and civil activists from around the country was due to descend on Islamabad for an indefinite sit-in until Mr. Chaudhry was restored.
"This is the first victory for the people in the history of Pakistan," said Hamid Khan, one of the leaders of the lawyers movement that campaigned tirelessly for Chaudhry. "This is the first time that the ruling elite had to bow to the pressure of the people."
US and Pakistani officials said that Pakistan's Army chief, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, who'd met frequently with Mr. Zardari and Mr. Gilani in recent days, played a key role in defusing the confrontation. General Kayani called on Gilani late Sunday night, and both went to see Zardari at about midnight for a meeting that ended at 1 a.m.
US officials thought that there were two reasons for Zardari's capitulation.