The frantic political stir created by the up-and-coming Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) has provoked opposing reactions on Saturday from the two heavyweight parties of the country, the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N).
While Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani calmly shrugged off talk of there being any threat to his party from the PTI’s monumental rise, Opposition Leader in the National Assembly Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan was more frantic – alleging that there was a concerted effort to undermine the PML-N, using parties such as the PTI, and saying he had evidence to support this claim.
Though it had been fluid for a while, the political landscape was shaken by the PTI’s mammoth October 30 rally at Minar-e-Pakistan in Lahore, the seat of power in Punjab, long considered the bastion of the PML-N’s power. Even before the Lahore rally, with PTI’s major political activity taking place in urban Punjab constituencies, analysts and observers concluded that the rise of Imran Khan’s PTI would hurt the PML-N the most.
The Lahore rally seemed to drive this point home emphatically for the PML-N, which has, since then, been in a huddle, planning what to do.
PML-N offensive against ISI, establishment
PML-N’s President Nawaz Sharif on Saturday held a meeting of the party’s senior leaders in Model Town Lahore where he also presided over a meeting of party workers from Faisalabad division.
According to senior party member privy to the discussions at the meeting, Sharif has given a go-ahead to party leaders to ‘expose the games of military establishment’ and particularly to criticise the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). The PML-N’s think tank last month had decided that this offensive would be launched if the establishment did not cease and desist from interfering in the country’s political dynamics – and that those ISI officials allegedly involved in this practice would be ‘exposed’.
And so it began on Saturday.
Chaudhry Nisar in a typically fiery press conference said he would present evidence of the military establishment’s sponsoring and promotion of PTI’s Lahore rally. He warned that if the ISI did not mend its ways the PML-N would take ‘direct action’ either on the floor of the house, in the courts or through the media.
“I have detailed documents of funding and ample evidence of the management the ISI extended in making the PTI’s rally successful,” Nisar said.
He vowed that he would present this evidence in the coming session of the National Assembly, which is slated to start from Monday. He said that he would force the government to review what he termed a policy of promoting the role of intelligence agencies just to damage PML-N.
Nisar calls out Kayani
Asked why he did not approach Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani with the allegations, Nisar replied that he had approached the general a number of times to control the role of ISI in politics. Kayani, he said, never responded to the pleas. He did add that he told the army chief that the ISI’s role under Kayani had remained ‘excellent’ for the first two years – but that this role had become dubious once again.
To a query, Nisar said that since Kayani would not listen to him, he would demand that the prime minister call the army chief to the floor of the National Assembly to clarify the establishment’s position in the making and breaking of political parties.
He said that the ISI was being used for petty politics despite the Pakistan military being under immense foreign pressure.
He said that Imran Khan had been in politics for 15 years, yet those that have joined him in recent days have strong linkages with the establishment. He added that 90% of those joining the PTI are from a party created by former president Gen. Pervez Musharraf, that is, the PML-Q.
While the PML-Q was created under a military dictatorship, the PTI was being created during civilian rule, asserted Nisar.
Asked whether President Asif Ali Zardari is on board in this ‘game’, Nisar replied in the affirmative – saying that the PPP co-chairman had been on board the establishment’s plan for the last three months. Nisar did hasten to add that the president might change his plans given that PPP workers, too, have begun to join PTI now.
Nothing to hide
He said that Imran’s demand that politicians reveal their assets was baseless propaganda and that if he has any documentary evidence in this regard he should move the court.
He also questioned PTI’s funding and its ideology – saying both were murky. Chaudhry Nisar said that the PML-N is going to bring a bill in the forthcoming session of the National Assembly regarding an effective system to declare assets. He said that bill would encompass the details of not only personal assets but also of details of party expenditures and sponsored trips of party leaderships. He said the bill recommends the establishment of a website where each every person’s details – assets and expenditures – would be displayed.
Gilani remains cool
Responding to the impending tussle for power between the PTI and PML-N and other opposition parties, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani said that the government does not need to ‘show their strength or muscle’, and added that intelligence agencies were with them.
The PM was talking to reporters on the sidelines of the 125th Founder’s Day of the Aitchison College in Lahore on Saturday.
When asked whether the PPP would demonstrate its street power in response to the public show of strength displayed by the PTI and PML-N, Gilani said that ‘it was not worth the government’s time to indulge in such activities’.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 13th, 2011.