Former president Asif Zardari’s salvo against the military evoked widespread condemnation from all major political parties on Wednesday, with some describing it as a ‘blackmailing tactic’ and others calling upon the PPP co-chairman to apologise to the nation.
Ghulam Sarwar Khan of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) said the PPP’s downfall had begun. “I see no difference between Zardari and the Indian prime minister (who had recently accused Pakistan of fuelling terrorism in India).”
While speaking on the floor of the National Assembly, Khan lamented the PPP co-chairman’s remarks which came at a time when the army is engaged in a fight for the country’s survival.
Minister for Climate Change Mushahidullah Khan said the Pakistan Army and other law-enforcement agencies (LEAs) were being targeted at a time when they were fighting terrorism. “This is very dangerous. Corrupt people will not be allowed to take the country hostage.”
The PPP government in Sindh has failed to maintain law and order, which is why the army has been called in to help, he said. “The army and other LEAs should be appreciated for their sacrifices for the future of our country.”
Parliamentary Secretary for Finance, Revenue and Economic Affairs Rana Muhammad Afzal called upon Zardari to withdraw his anti-army remarks. “The statement of Asif Zardari against the army is very painful. Such a statement should not have come from a leader who is known for tolerance and reconciliation,” Afzal told lawmakers in the National Assembly.
“This statement is quite unacceptable and condemnable,” he added. “This statement has raised concerns in all quarters and Zardari should withdraw it,” he added.
Responding to the condemnations, PPP MNA Aijaz Jakhrani said Zardari’s statement should be seen in a particular scenario. “He was forced to say such things.”
Jakhrani, in a clear warning to the government, said: “If anything happens to us, then you will also fall prey. We stood by you for the sake of democracy.” He asked the ruling party if apex committees are meant for Sindh only. “Is everything good in Punjab?”
SAFRON Minister Lt Gen (retd) Abdul Qadir Baloch and PML-N MNA Captain Safdar strongly protested when Jakhrani used un-parliamentary language against the military. After PkMAP chief Mehmood Khan Achakzai’s intervention, Speaker Ayaz Sadiq expunged Jakhrani’s remarks from the proceedings.
Separately, the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid, which was a partner of the PPP-led coalition government between 2008 and 2013, said it would not tolerate criticism of the army. All political parties have given the armed forces the mandate for operations in Karachi and other troubled regions to restore peace in the country wrecked by violence, said Senator Kamil Ali Aga, the information secretary of the PML-Q.
“Zardari’s tirade has tarnished his own image among the masses who consider it as an attempt by the former president to blackmail the armed forces,” Senator Aga added. “There is an impression that a sizeable chunk of the Rs230 billion corruption money mentioned by the Rangers head a few days back goes to the PPP.”
PTI Vice Chairman Makhdoom Shah Mehmmod Qureshi said the Pakistan Army was fighting terrorism and militancy, and giving such statements was not in favour of anyone. He demanded the government go public with the Rangers report on organised crime in Karachi.
“I’m at a loss to understand what prompted Zardari to give such a statement,” Qureshi said, adding that the political leadership had given the paramilitary Rangers the mandate to cleanse Karachi of crimes since the police were unable to control the situation in the metropolis. “No confidence in the Rangers is tantamount to no confidence in the federal government.”
Awami Muslim league chief Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed said Zardari’s statement against the Pakistan Army was an attempt to cover up his corruption. “Zardari’s tirade came at a time when the Rangers is all set to expose the misdeeds of PPP leaders,” Rashid added. “The Rangers is ready to give a tough time to corrupt people in the province.”
Sindh’s former home minister and Zardari’s ex-top confidante Zulfiqar Ali Mirza, who has, of late turned the guns against the PPP, said that “Zardari has attempted a political suicide by attacking the military establishment”.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 18th, 2015.