Facing attacks on multiple fronts, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government suffered another setback on Tuesday as the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) threw its weight behind Imran Khan’s demand to the government to carry out an audit of all votes cast in the 2013 general election. The party’s co-chairman called on the prime minister not to ‘act like a monarch’.
“Heavens will not fall if votes in four constituencies are recounted,” Asif Ali Zardari said in a hard-hitting statement. It came a day after Zardari hit out at what he called callous treatment of tens of thousands of tribesmen displaced by Operation Zarb-e-Azb in North Waziristan Agency.
Zardari expressed “surprise and dismay over the continued foot-dragging by the government on the demand to recount votes in four constituencies in Lahore”.“The heavens will not fall if the demand is accepted,” he said in the statement issued from the PPP media cell. He added that recounting in constituencies where there are complaints should be carried out regardless of whether the places in question are in Punjab or Sindh.
Zardari remarked that the prime minister should not act ‘like a monarch’ and must refrain from interfering in provincial affairs.“Recounting in 40 constituencies may be carried out if needed instead of the four as demanded at present,” he added.
Political analysts and observers say the timing of this statement is important as the PML-N is currently facing criticism from several fronts while facing serious challenges nationwide. The statement marks a major shift from the party’s otherwise docile attitude towards the PML-N government and targets the government’s perceived inability to address issues of the masses.
A powerful group of the party from Punjab has reportedly become an active critic of the leadership’s complaisance with the PML-N government and the PPP’s role as the ‘friendly opposition’.
“No such statement comes off the cuff,” said spokesperson Senator Farhatullah Babar. “There is a context to it. The PPP accepted the poll results for the sake of democracy but it cannot abandon the people who are undergoing unimaginable hardships compounded by load-shedding and water shortages,” Babar said.
Later in the day, PTI chief Imran Khan demanded an “audit of the whole 2013 election” after a meeting of his party’s core committee. The party had earlier demanded recounts in four constituencies in Lahore where its key leaders lost against PML-N contenders in the polls.
Separately, a senior PML-N official told The Express Tribune that Zardari’s statement had nothing to do with the PTI and had other connotations. He said the PPP co-chairman had endorsed PTI’s view but had not announced his party’s plan to join the PTI rally on August 14.
The major issue in Zardari’s statement was regarding interference in other provinces’ affairs, he added. PPP was not happy with “PM Nawaz’s interference” during his recent visit to Sindh wherein Karachi’s law and order was thoroughly discussed, he added.
The appointment of Sindh’s Inspector General [IG] Police had been a major issue of contention between the federal and provincial government.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 16th, 2014.
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