After remaining out of touch for more than a year, bitter rivals President Asif Ali Zardari and former premier Nawaz Sharif finally broke the silence and talked to each other on Sunday, albeit for an apolitical reason.
President Zardari, according to his spokesperson, phoned Sharif to invite him to an official banquet the president would be hosting next weekend in honour of visiting Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao.
Spokesperson Farhatullah Babar said Sharif accepted the invitation to honour the foreign dignitary. The president, Babar added, thanked Sharif for confirming his presence at the dinner as China is regarded as a true friend across the political divide in Pakistan
An official of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) said there won’t, however, be any political interaction between the leaders of the two largest parties. “Mian Sahib (Nawaz Sharif) will be there just because of the Chinese premier… no one should try to interpret it as a political thing,” the official said.
There has not been any direct contact between President Zardari and Sharif for the past may months now, though Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani keeps meeting the PML-N chief regularly. The PML-N has recently decided to step up what it called a mass mobilisation campaign against President Zardari’s Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and his central government but said it would not seek midterm elections.
There have been several agreements between Islamabad and Beijing under which China would invest more than $10 billion in Pakistan during coming years. Though China claims it never interferes in any country’s internal politics, a stable dispensation is what they would like to have in Pakistan to see their industrial products reach the outside world through Pakistani ports.
President Zardari has been warming up Pakistan’s relations with China by embarking upon half a dozen trips to the emerging economic giant since he took over as head of the state back in September 2008.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 13th, 2010.