Pakistani politics witnessed a new first. Holding the Holy Quran in his hand and then placing it upon his head, Sindh’s senior minister Zulfiqar Ali Mirza made some very bold revelations against his friend’s key, even if troubled, political ally as well as his friend’s closest and most handy aide.
President Asif Ali Zardari perhaps now faces the biggest challenge of his political career as none other than his most loyal friend and senior minister Sindh, Zulfiqar Ali Mirza, at a press conference issued a loaded charge sheet. Mirza gave specific information along with alleged evidence, against all those he accused. He said the ongoing operation was meaningless and that the real killers were not being apprehended.
Zulfiqar Mirza’s attack has produced a complex political dynamic. One with the ‘evidence’ that Zulfiqar Mirza claims he has against the MQM’s alleged involvement in target killings, he has put the MQM under pressure. An MQM on the defensive provides political leverage to the PPP in its ongoing negotiations with that party. It may also help to stem the growing alienation of the Sindhis against the PPP leadership, especially earlier the mishandling of the revival of the local bodies.
The claims made by Zulfiqar Mirza can also potentially strengthen the PPP’s hand in the Supreme Court’s suo motto hearing on the Karachi target killing. The SC bench now meeting in Karachi is bound to call Zulfiqar Mirza to make good his claims in court.
(Read: Suo motu action on Karachi - CJ seeks report from chief secretary, IGP Sindh)
But the most challenging for PPP’s internal politics is Mirza’s attack on Rehman Malik. Zulfiqar Mirza has made specific charges against the interior minister, holding him responsible for leading a “farcical operation” and for being primarily committed to keeping the MQM on board. In addition to his criticism at the press conference, Zulfiqar Mirza, later in a television program insisted that the interior minister “is Pakistan’s enemy and if Pakistan breaks up, then Rehman Malik will be responsible for it.”
Although Mirza insisted that he would remain loyal to the president till his dying day and would give his life in the party’s service, within the immediate context he has created major political challenges for the president. He has alleged that the president’s right-hand man is hand in glove with the killers of innocent citizens.
As for whether these extraordinary revelations will lead to any action against Rehman Malik or the MQM, the punch-line comes from Zulfiqar Mirza himself. While speaking on television he said, “I have rolled the ball, now the ball in the court of the president, army chief, the ISI chief, the PM, the speaker of parliament and the chairman of the senate.” Mirza expects them to use the evidence that he has presented to take action against the MQM and the interior minister. He said the moment the CJP asks him to present himself in court, he will do so.
Zulfiqar Mirza may have become a thorn in the president’s side. But Mirza is one PPP leader that the president will not find it easy to sideline. He will also not able to easily brush aside the alleged charge sheet presented against Rehman Malik nor the MQM. Clearly these moves by Zardari’s closest friend puts the Karachi operation in an even greater spotlight and for all the wrong reasons. It also sharply exposes the weaknesses in Zardari’s politics of “mufahimmat.”
The questions that Mirza’s charge sheet raises only confirms public criticism of the operation. Questions that have no easy answers but ones that will now be repeatedly asked by many political and non-political stake-holders from across the country.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 29th, 2011.