As pressure continues on the government from the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani differ on how to tackle the opposition’s criticism.
While Prime Minister Gilani wanted to “ignore” the opposition, it was President Zardari who advised the premier to spare himself for a befitting response to the onslaught by Nawaz Sharif and his party members.
Officials in the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) said that the response to the opposition’s criticism has been at the centre of discussions in several formal and informal meetings in recent weeks.
Zardari, they added, first asked some of his associates, including former law minister Babar Awan, to respond to the opposition in the same manner, but after realising Awan was not good enough he assigned the task to PM Gilani.
“Zardari thought it would be better if Nawaz Sharif and his party are responded to by somebody holding important office. It would have an impact,” one of the officials said.
And like always, the premier stood up to Zardari’s directives and started doing what he was asked to. Opposition Leader in Punjab Assembly Raja Riaz told The Express Tribune on Thursday that the party had decided not to be silent anymore after the ‘dirty language’ used at the PML-N’s rally in Lahore.
“That was the time, the moment when we thought enough is enough. We can let them criticise us and go way,” said Riaz, who was once a senior minister in the provincial cabinet Mian Shahbaz Sharif, the PML-N top leader.
On July 28, Shahbaz called for publicly hanging Zardari whom he labelled as the biggest thief and robber.
“Gilani has the backing from Zardari Sahib for whatever he says. His words reflect the party’s policy,” Raja said when asked whether the premier’s outburst against Sharif and his men in recent weeks was actually the PPP’s strategy.
Last month in Lahore, Gilani challenged the PML-N to topple the PPP-led government in the centre if it had the strength.
PML-N’s Deputy Information Secretary MNA Khurram Dastgir Khan thought the premier was challenging the opposition because he feels secure after having support from the Pakistan Muslim League-Q and Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM).
Khurram added that his party was neither worried about Gilani’s statements nor did it take them seriously.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 11th, 2011.