Is the PPP defiant or in disarray?
Zardari’s aides have been displaying a curious mix of bluster and fear.
Christmas Day in Islamabad is like any other day, except for the turkey on dinner tables. Natives still try to procure invites to parties hosted by foreigners and they still speculate about President Zardari’s murky future.
The night before Christmas provided further grist for the coup rumour mill as Chief of Army Staff Ashfaq Parvez Kayani skipped the dinner Zardari hosted for Chinese State Councillor Dai Bingguo, sending Chief of General Staff Lt Gen Waheed Arshad in his place. The night before that Kayani was a no-show at the dinner Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani had for Bingguo.
Zardari’s aides have also been displaying a curious mix of bluster and fear. In one breath, they claim that his address in Naudero for Benazir Bhutto’s fourth death anniversary will decisively show that he is in no mood to give up and will fight back against the military. Then they follow that up by saying that perhaps Zardari may not speak at all because of health reasons and that the same speech could then be delivered by his son Bilawal.
Still, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that the PPP is displaying not defiance but disarray. On Sunday, Information Minister Firdous Ashiq Awan dramatically tendered her resignation at a televised cabinet meeting and just as speedily took the resignation back. Sources in the PPP say that Awan had been under fire within the party for not putting up a good enough defence of the government in the Memogate issue. The whispering campaign against her led Awan to offer her resignation. But, say the sources, Gilani is not prepared to let anyone resign at a time that calls for unity within the government.
The PML-N, for its part, is rhetorically opposed to the government but on the same page regarding the military. So you have the bluster of Chaudhry Nisar who has been demanding elections ‘tomorrow’ for a good two weeks. But as one PML-N MNA said, if the party really did want snap polls they could trigger it by immediately resigning from all their assembly seats. That this is not being considered is that it would be a victory for the army and that elections held under their auspices have no chance of being free and fair. The MNA also said that elections supervised by the army would leave the PML-N with even less power than it has now.
The wildcard in all of this is the Imran Khan juggernaut, which is now getting even more establishment support in the guise of Maleeha Lodhi and former KP IGP Malik Naveed Ahmed, who has corruption cases pending before him in NAB. But Imran’s game is one no one in Islamabad is able to figure out. He added anti-military stalwart Javed Hashmi to his team even as a large dinner for Imran in Karachi was hosted by Adnan Asad, who claims to be a relative of General Pervez Musharraf and is a contractor for Nato.
As things stand, no one seems to have any idea what’s coming next. But as is always the case in Islamabad, that doesn’t mean there are any shortage of opinions predicting the future