Speculation rife as PM hosts Zardari today

PPO, Taliban talks, civilian-military ties likely to come up for discussion.


Qamar Zaman April 15, 2014
With increasing tensions, Premier Nawaz is likely to find support from Zardari on the Musharraf trial. PHOTO: PID

ISLAMABAD:


In what promises to be an eagerly watched meeting, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif will host former president Asif Ali Zardari on Wednesday (today) in the backdrop of growing unease in civil-military relations.


Although a senior official at the Prime Minister House sought to downplay it as a ‘scheduled meeting’, the timing has raised many eyebrows in the capital, with speculation rife about the possible agenda.

“It [the meeting] was scheduled some 15 days ago on the request of former president Asif Ali Zardari,” the official said.

A senior PPP leader told The Express Tribune on condition of anonymity that the meeting between the two political heavyweights has symbolic value in the present circumstances. “The meeting will give a message that the country’s political forces are united,” he added.

This will be the second meeting between the two since the Pakistan Muslim League–Nawaz (PML-N) took over the reins of government from Zardari’s PPP last year. The first meeting took place in January this year when the two leaders jointly performed the ground-breaking of the $ 1.6billion Thar coal power project.

Wednesday’s meeting will take place in the afternoon and Zardari would be accompanied by Senator Raza Rabbani, Syed Khursheed Shah and Murad Ali Shah. Finance Minister Senator Ishaq Dar and Minister for Science and Technology Zahid Hamid would accompany the prime minister at the meeting.

Asked about the agenda, the official from the Prime Minister House said that matters related to political developments, law and order, security and the Pakistan Protection Ordinance (PPO) would come up for discussion.

Sources told The Express Tribune that the prime minister is likely to seek support from the former president for the passage of the controversial PPO due to the numerical superiority of the PPP in the Senate. The ordinance, which had been rushed through the National Assembly by the government, faces stiff resistance in the upper house of parliament by a numerically stronger opposition led by the PPP. So far, the PPP has made it clear that it would not support the PPO.

In addition, both leaders are also likely to discuss progress in the ongoing peace talks with the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). The PPP, along with other parties, had mandated the government to hold talks with the TTP a few months ago. However, despite belated movement in talks, scant details have so far emerged about whether any concrete progress has been achieved in the talks or not.

A significant topic of discussion during the meeting is likely to be the rising tensions in civil-military relations over the trial of former military ruler Pervez Musharraf who has been indicted in a high treason case for violating the Constitution on November 3, 2007.

Recently, the government turned down a request to remove Musharraf’s name from the Exit Control List (ECL) despite the incumbent army chief reportedly having requested the government to allow him to leave the country.

This month, relations between the military and the civilian government reached an all-time low when army chief General Raheel Sharif responded to criticism leveled at the army by vowing to preserve the army’s dignity and institutional pride.

A day after the army chief’s statement Defence Minister Khawaja Asif declared that parliament was supreme over other institutions, which it can hold accountable. “Parliament is a supreme organ of the state and it would preserve its dignity besides having a respect for all other institutions,” Asif added.

With increasing tensions, Premier Nawaz is likely to find support from Zardari on the Musharraf trial. Zardari, who has been publicly critical of the former dictator, has time and again called for Musharraf not to drag the institution of army in his case and asked the government to pursue the high treason case against the former army chief.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif will be the chief guest at the passing-out parade at Kakul Academy on 19 April. The PM House spokesperson said on Tuesday that the army chief has formally invited the prime minister for the ceremony.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 16th, 2014.

COMMENTS (29)

Abdul Jabbar | 7 years ago | Reply

it is good that 2 big parties have good understanding, otherwise smaller parties were blackmailing senior partner in number games. democracy in right direction.

james | 7 years ago | Reply @Rumormonger: good one mate...best one i heard so far....
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