ISLAMABAD: PPP Co-Chairman and former president Asif Ali Zardari finally broke his silence on Monday over the recent arrests of fellow party members and accused Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif of “repeating the politics of the 1990s”.
In a hard-hitting statement issued from London and released by the PPP’s Media Office here, Mr Zardari alleged that the steps being taken by the government “clearly indicated” that the rulers were “dividing” the nation in an attempt “to save their natural allies Taliban and the terrorists” and to “weaken” the war against terror.
Political observers believe that the recent arrest of his close friend Dr Asim Hussain forced Mr Zardari to issue such a harshly-worded statement.
The statement came two days after PPP leaders declared in Islamabad that the party had decided to end its policy of reconciliation and would no longer be supporting the PML-N government in any political crisis.
Declares end to reconciliation, warns of ‘disastrous consequences’
He said that first it was Qasim Zia, the former PPP Punjab president. Then, Senator Saifullah Bangash’s son was picked up from Lahore and now Dr Asim Hussain, who is also the chairman of the Sindh Higher Education Commission, had been arrested in Karachi.
And immediately afterwards, he said, arrest warrants for former prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and ex-commerce minister Makhdoom Amin Fahim, who was seriously ill, had also been issued.
Mr Zardari demanded that “politics of revenge” should be stopped immediately. Otherwise, he warned, there could be “disastrous consequences”. He also alleged that the actions being taken by the federal agencies in Sindh were in clear violation of the Constitution.
“If they want to conduct accountability fairly, they should first take action against the federal minister who gave a confessional statement before a magistrate that he was involved in money-laundering for the Sharif brothers. Only then will we know how clean PML-N supporters are,” he said, in an apparent reference to Finance Minister Ishaq Dar. Mr Dar has reportedly submitted an affidavit before the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) in a corruption reference against the Sharif brothers.
The PPP co-chairman also alleged that bureaucrats in Sindh were being harassed by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) and National Accountability Bureau (NAB).
“The chief secretary of Sindh is on bail. All this unmistakably presents a clear pattern of political harassment and revenge,” he said. Sindh had been immobilised under direct orders from the Prime Minister’s House, he claimed.
Mr Zardari had left Karachi on June 25, a few days after delivering a controversial speech against the armed forces, and his sudden departure had sparked speculation that he had fled the country in anticipation of law-enforcement action against him.
His sister Faryal Talpur and son Bilawal Bhutto also flew to the UAE around the same time. But after criticism that the family had left the party in a lurch, Bilawal was sent back to lead the party. Ms Talpur has also since returned, but Mr Zardari is now in London.
But in his latest statement, Mr Zardari has praised the country’s armed forces for their role in the ongoing war on terror.
The former president said that at a time when innocent citizens were being killed by enemy bombing on border villages, and when the Pakistan Army was fighting a war against terrorists, Nawaz Sharif was targeting PPP and other political opponents, instead of challenging the real enemy.
Mr Zardari said the PPP stood fully with the army in the ongoing war against terrorism.
The former president said that in Punjab a video had surfaced in which a provincial minister Rana Mushhood was seen receiving money on behalf of the Mian brothers, but he had not been arrested yet.
“It seems that Nawaz Sharif has not learnt any lessons from the past. We are not the ones who fled to Jeddah after seeking a pardon,” he said, in an apparent reference to the deal struck by the Sharifs with then-army chief Gen Pervez Musharraf in the year 2000.
“We accepted the results of the 2013 general elections for the sake of democracy, although those elections were the elections of the returning officers (ROs). The decisions recently announced by election tribunals have proved our point that the PML-N had outside help,” he said.
The PPP leader also called to make public Justice Najafi’s report on the Model Town incident. “Those who killed 14 people, including women, in the Model Town tragedy, weren’t they terrorists? Why are they not being arrested,” he asked.
Published in Dawn, September 1st, 2015