ISLAMABAD: In an uncharacteristically aggressive speech, Pakistan Peoples Party Co-Chairperson Asif Ali Zardari on Tuesday lashed out against what he called “the character assassination of his party” and warned the military leadership that if they did not stop, he would expose the misdeeds of many generals.
The confrontational tone of Mr Zardari’s outburst was quite unprecedented, as was his open declaration of “dire consequences” if any action was taken against the PPP.
Reacting to the PPP chief’s statement; however, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan dismissed the criticism, saying that the Peoples Party was merely paying the price for its own ineptitude.
“Beware, beware, beware, if I hear this again, I will make public a list (of generals) starting from the creation of Pakistan and you will be giving explanations for quite a long time,” the PPP chief said while addressing an oath-taking ceremony of newly-elected PPP office-bearers from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata).
“Stop the character assassination of our party; I do not want to see our institutions becoming weak. I know your colleagues are accused in different cases, which are being tried in court. If I make a list of these generals public in a press conference, you will be destroyed,” he said, in no unclear terms.
However, he did not specify what kind of character assassination he was referring to.
“I know that this is our army, but you are here for just three years; we have to live here for a long time, so do not create problems for us,” he said, indirectly addressing the military leadership.
The PPP chief said he had exhibited exceptional patience, even when his wife Benazir Bhutto was assassinated, but now he was running out of patience. “There is a limit to everything. Do not interfere in matters where you have no authority,” he said.
In another hardly-veiled reference to the military, Mr Zardari said: “Whenever the army was weak, the PPP supported it. We do not want to weaken you, because India is provoking you on one front, militants supported by India are fighting you on another and militants in Balochistan are ready to fight you on a third one,” he said.
Chaudhry Nisar criticises PPP leader for his outburst
Mr Zardari’s statement came a day after Sindh Rangers conducted an operation against the Sindh Building Control Authority (SBCA) and seized records of land allegedly allotted illegally to certain influential individuals.
Last week, Rangers Director General Maj Gen Bilal Akbar had said Rs230 billion in black money was collected annually in Karachi and was used to fund criminal activities and terrorism. He also said that a large portion of the money was collected through land-grabbing and illegal allotments.
The PPP moved an adjournment motion in the Senate on Friday over this statement and asked why Rangers had not taken action to prevent the collection of the Rs230 billion in illegal money, if they already knew about it.
Farhatullah Babar, a PPP spokesman, refused to comment further on what Mr Zardari had said.
The PPP chief also lashed out at the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) for not implementing decisions taken under the 18th Amendment. “If the 18th Amendment is not implemented in letter and spirit, we will go to war,” he said.
He claimed that during the PTI’s sit–in, the PPP was asked to resign from the assemblies. “There would have certainly been re-elections if the PPP had resigned at that time,” he said.
The PPP chief said his party still had the power to paralyse the whole country. “If I take to the streets, roads in Sindh, as well as from Fata to Karachi, will be blocked and they will only be opened on my call,” he said.
Mr Zardari said certain elements were indulging in “politics of power”, vowing to eliminate all “designs against democracy”.
“I take along all political parties, but some people think it is my mistake because they had not given sacrifices for democracy and they have not drunk hot water in jails,” he added.
Talking about PTI Chairman Imran Khan, he alleged that Mr Khan was acting on someone else’s directions. “If we have given him wickets and a bat, let him play,” he said.
Mr Zardari also rebuked former president retired Gen Pervez Musharraf for victimising his party and said he would not be able to bear being imprisoned. “I know about threats to our country that even Musharraf does not know about. I was in jail for five years during his regime, but he is not ready to face even three months behind bars,” he said.
Analysts were divided over whether this speech should be considered a message to his own party or whether it was directed at someone else. The PPP has faced several defeats in the recent past, from the 2013 general elections to the cantonment polls and the recent elections in KP and Gilgit-Baltistan.
The setbacks have stirred speculations about squabbling within the party.
THE RANGERS FACTOR: However, senior journalist Zahid Hussain told Dawn that Mr Zardari’s speech was not for his party’s consumption. “It is a very serious situation and I believe that this is a reaction to the recent confrontation between Sindh Rangers and the PPP-led Sindh government,” he said.
He said the Rangers had become quite powerful, especially after the Sindh government had failed to deliver on several counts.
Mr Hussain said that while Mr Zardari’s fiery speech may not weaken the Rangers’ determination, the situation may take a more critical turn in the days to come.
He said he was not sure how the PPP would react if Rangers proceeded further and tried to lay their hands on PPP leaders if they found them involved in illegal activities. However, he seemed certain that the Rangers would not back down, for fear of losing their credibility.
Reacting to Mr Zardari’s statement later on Tuesday night, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan condemned the former president’s remarks, terming them “humiliating” and “without provocation”.
“The PPP chief targeted important national institutions in order to hide his own weaknesses,” he said, adding that the PPP had only itself to blame for all the problems it currently found itself in.
Published in Dawn, June 17th, 2015