LAHORE: In an attempt to further isolate its rival Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz, the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party has begun secret negotiations with the All Pakistan Muslim League for a possible return of its chief and former military ruler Pervez Musharraf to Pakistan.
The two parties have set up a covert communication channel to coordinate political activities in the country, ostensibly against the PML-N, sources told The Express Tribune.
A PPP delegation met for two hours with Chaudhry Sarfraz Anjum Kahlon, the top adviser of Pervez Musharraf, on September 9 at his residence in Cambridge, England, to discuss a new political alignment which could pave the way for Musharraf’s return to Pakistan.
Musharraf has been living in ‘self-exile’ since he stepped down as president in 2008 to avoid possible prosecution at home.
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The delegation, sanctioned by party co-chairperson Asif Ali Zardari, included three PPP lawmakers from Gujranwala, Sargodha and Sahiwal, sources said, without naming them. Other members of the delegation were a federal minister and three confidantes of Zardari.
Musharraf plans to return home on March 23, 2012. President Zardari believes that Musharraf’s homecoming would benefit the PPP as it would put the PML-N under more pressure.
The two parties have agreed to not criticise each other in public and focus instead on attacking their common rival – the PML-N.
They also agreed to maintain a secret channel to evolve a strategy to defeat the PML-N in its political bastion of Punjab in the next general election.
The PPP negotiators told Anjum that they have been mandated by Zardari to initiate a secret dialogue with the APML and discuss the possibility of Musharraf’s return to the country.
The two sides also agreed to meet again at a mutually convenient date.
After the meeting, the PPP negotiators met the president, who is currently in London for a medical check-up, and briefed him about the meeting.
Chaudhry Sarfraz Anjum Kahlon, who is a former lord mayor of Saffron Walden and a family friend of Musharraf, has been tasked by the APML chief to visit Pakistan to follow up on his September 9 talks with the PPP leadership.
Sources told The Express Tribune that the powerful military establishment was also taken on board before the PPP’s overture to Musharraf.
In the next meeting between the two sides, which would probably be a delegation-level session, the PPP is expected to tell the APML how to save Musharraf from law courts after his homecoming, the sources added. The two sides would also try to organise a meeting between Musharraf and Zardari.
Sources said the PPP chose to contact Anjum instead of other APML leaders because he was a close ally of the PPP during Gen Ziaul Haq’s rule and was incarcerated three times. In the 1980s, he had moved to the United Kingdom.
When contacted, APML media adviser Chaudhry Fawad Hussain neither confirmed nor denied talks with the PPP. However, he said that his party supported the PPP over its liberal, moderate and progressive policies.
However, the PPP rejected reports of talks with the APML as “baseless”. The party’s information secretary Qamar Zaman Kaira told The Express Tribune that the PPP’s policy was to remain at a distance from Musharraf.
He pointed out that the people of Pakistan had “removed Musharraf’s chapter from the country’s politics”. He said the PPP would not stop Musharraf from returning to Pakistan but he would have to face law courts upon his return.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 12th, 2011.