Already embattled on different fronts, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government suffered another setback when Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) on Tuesday supported Imran Khan’s demand to verify the authenticity of voting patterns in the last year’s general elections.
In a hard-hitting statement, issued for the first time since PPP sat in the Opposition benches after a five-year stint in power, former president Asif Ali Zardari warned Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif not to act as a monarch and refrain from interfering in the affairs of provinces.
In an apparent shift from the party’s docile attitude towards the PML-N government, Zardari’s statement targeted the government’s perceived failure to address issues of the masses.
“Former President Asif Ali Zardari has expressed surprise and dismay over the continued foot-dragging by the government on the demand to recount votes in four constituencies in Lahore saying ‘heavens will not fall down if the demand was accepted’,” read the press statement issued by the PPP media cell. “Recounting may be carried out in 40 constituencies, not just four, if need be,” the statement quoted Zardari as saying.
“No such statement is made off-the-cuff. There is a context to it,” his spokesperson Senator Farhatullah Babar told The Express Tribune. He quoted Zardari as saying that PPP accepted the poll results for the sake of democracy and the democratic process but it cannot abandon the people who are undergoing unimaginable hardships compounded by load-shedding and water shortages in the sweltering heat.
Political analysts and observers are giving importance to the timing of this statement, which came at a time when the former ruling party is facing criticism – from within the party – for ‘being easy on the government’.
An influential and powerful group from PPP’s Punjab chapter has become an active critic of the leadership’s complaisance vis-a-vis the PML-N government and “friendly opposition role”.
In a statement issued a day earlier, Zardari had also criticised the government’s handling of hundreds of thousands of people displaced from North Waziristan after the Pakistan Army launched Operation Zarb-e-Azb.
A few days before that, former Prime Minister Syed Yousaf Raza Gilani created a stir when he said that former ruler General Pervez Musharraf was ousted from power as part of a deal his party had made with the military establishment back in 2008. He had claimed that PML-N was on board in the agreement and was not following the commitments the political forces had made with the country’s powerful establishment.
These statements and political decisions signal how a previously disinterested Zardari is now vying to regain his party’s status as a major stakeholder.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 19th, 2014.