KARACHI: All eyes are fixed on today’s (Tuesday’s) events at Garhi Khuda Bukhsh where the PPP is likely to announce an anti-government movement.
Political pundits are wondering about its timing and whether the PPP would make a solo flight or work to form a grand alliance of opposition parties against the government.
Everyone is also curious about the ‘good news’ that PPP Co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari promised at a public rally at the Karachi airport on Friday.
“The party is expected to announce a campaign against the government and set a few days’ deadline,” a veteran PPP leader told The Express Tribune requesting anonymity. “Since the PML-N has conveyed its willingness to negotiate, Zardari sahib is ready to give them time,” he added.
“The PML-N is willing to hold discussions on all but one of the PPP’s demands. The government is not ready to negotiate on a joint opposition bill on the Panama Papers, saying the matter is sub judice status,” sources in the PPP said.
Although the PPP has announced that it will now be run by its chairperson, Bilawal Bhutto, practically this does not appear to be true. All decisions are now being made by Zardari.
“Wait and see. [Decisions by] the party leadership will surprise you today,” said Nisar Ahmed Khuhro, the president of PPP’s Sindh chapter. However, he wouldn’t say who was actually ‘calling the shots’ in the party.
Zardari, who returned to Pakistan after 18-month-long self-exile, has held consultations with senior party leaders during his two-day stay in Karachi.
In every meeting, he emphasised: “We are against the government policies, but not democratic dispensation. We will launch a democratic movement in parliament.” This practically means he does not favour launching street agitation.
Now, the million-dollar question is: can the PPP win the sympathies of other political forces such as Pakistan Tehreek Insaaf and Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM)?
“Our point of view on governance is clear. The prime minister has lost credibility, so he should step down without delay. We will see if the PPP contacts us for [the formation of] a grand alliance,” PTI leader Shah Mehmood Qureshi said.
On the other hand, PML-Q chief Chaudhry Shujaat, who called on Asif Zardari on Sunday, said: “There is just one option: form a grand alliance of all opposition parties … This is the only viable option. I’ve told Zardari that this is how the PPP can win the support of other opposition parties,” he said.
Interestingly, there appears to be a dichotomy in PPP’s policies. Zardari used soft language against the federal government, but his son [Bilawal] called for street agitation to get rid of the government. “Hamain takht-e-Raiwand ko girana hai (We have to dislodge Raiwind’s rule),” he has said.
People are also uncertain about what Zardari meant when he talked about ‘good news’. Different party leaders interpreted the statement differently.
Some say he will Bilawal’s candidacy in a by-election, others believe he is likely to announce his [Bilawal’s] marriage plan, while some argue he [Zardari] is likely to welcome new faces in the PPP.
“This [announcement] will [truly’ be a surprise,” said Maula Bux Chandio.
Asif Zardari, who left the country after a hard-hitting speech against the army, appeared to seek reconciliation with the establishment. He called up to felicitate the new chief of army staff before returning to the country.
“Fear still prevails in the PPP ranks that Zardari sahib will go back after staying in Pakistan for a few weeks,” sources said. But Zardari’s spokesperson Farhatullah Babar dismissed the impression.
In recent meetings, PPP leaders suggested that Zardari divide his time between Lahore and Islamabad. It remains to be seen what decision he makes after the death anniversary of Benazir Bhutto, his wife, who was assassinated in 2007. Even after nine years, the investigation into her death is still in limbo.
On the other hand, thousands of people arrived in Garhi Khuda Bukhsh where a big public meeting will be held on Tuesday afternoon. The party’s Central Executive Committee is also scheduled to meet after Dec 27. Political pundits are sure Tuesday’s developments have the potential of triggering a political earthquake.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 27th, 2016.