There are neither permanent friends nor permanent foes in politics. Beset with graft charges, the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) holds the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) responsible for the recent arrest of its leaders in the ongoing military-backed operation across the country.
PPP Co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari issued on Monday a hard-hitting statement accusing Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif of resorting to the politics of the 1990s, when the two parties were arch rivals, before their leaders had signed a covenant of reconciliation in London while in exile during Pervez Musharraf’s military regime. Zardari claimed Sindh had been immobilised under the direct orders of the Prime Minister House.
He warned Nawaz of ‘dire consequences’ for the premier’s ‘actions’, but he did not elaborate what actions the PPP was contemplating of taking.
“Today Nawaz Sharif is the prime minister of the country and Shahbaz Sharif is the chief minister of Punjab only because of the PPP,” Zardari was quoted as saying in his statement issued from London. “It was the PPP that lifted the ban from becoming the prime minister or the chief minister for a third time, although it was clear to us that it would only serve the interests of the Sharif brothers.”
Zardari’s statement comes two days after PPP’s second-tier leadership had announced that the party would no longer pursue politics of reconciliation with the PML-N.
The day security officials picked up former petroleum minister Dr Asim Hussain and an anti-corruption court issued non-bailable warrants for the arrest of former prime minister Syed Yousaf Raza Gilani and another key PPP leader Makhdoom Amin Fahim, Opposition Leader
in the National Assembly Syed Khursheed Shah had announced that there would be an ‘open war if anyone dared apprehending Zardari’.
Some political observers view the arrest of Dr Asim, a close confidante of Zardari, as an attempt to close in on the PPP co-chairman. Following Shah’s statement, other PPP leaders had convened a press conference later in the day to attempt to tone down his remarks.
They said the party was not against investigations into corruption charges, but they believed that such cases should be tried under civilian laws and not under anti-terrorism laws. They demanded accountability across the board.
Zardari said in the statement that the actions of the federal agencies in Sindh were in clear violation of the Constitution.
“First Qasim Zia and the son of Senator Bangash were arrested and now Dr Asim. Immediately after that, warrants for arrest of Gilani and Fahim were issued. Bureaucrats in Sindh are being harassed by the FIA and NAB. The chief secretary is on bail. All this unmistakably presents a clear pattern of political harassment and revenge.”
He said that in Punjab a video had surfaced in which provincial minister Rana Mashhood was seen receiving money on behalf of the Sharif brothers. “But he has not been arrested yet.”
If they want fair accountability, said the PPP co-chairman, then they should first “take action against a federal minister who gave a confessional statement before a magistrate that he was involved in money laundering for the Sharif brothers”.
“We accepted the results of the 2013 general elections for the sake of democracy, although they were ROs’ (returning officers’) elections,” said Zardari. “The verdicts of the tribunals have proved our point that the PML-N had received outside help to win the polls.”
The PPP has already announced that the party might not participate in the upcoming by-elections. Like the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, the PPP also wants the Election Commission of Pakistan’s members to resign.
Accolades for the army
Zardari paid accolades to the Pakistan Army and said his party supported their efforts to eradicate terrorism and militancy.
“At a time when our innocent citizens are being killed by the enemy, when the army is fighting a decisive war against terrorists and defending the borders, Premier Nawaz is targeting the PPP and other political opponents instead of challenging the real enemy.”
He said the steps being taken by the government clearly indicated that it was “dividing the nation in an attempt to save its natural allies, the Taliban and other terrorists, to weaken the war against terror”.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 1st, 2015.