As the announcement of the Supreme Court's verdict on the Panamagate case draws nearer, there is a palpable build-up in political tension as all camps gear up for the upcoming election.
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"The four-year era of politics of reconciliation has ended and now we will show them [the PML-N] what true opposition is," PPP co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari told political workers on Tuesday, seemingly breaking away from his party's image as a 'friendly opposition' to the ruling PML-N.
"When we are in power in the centre, we will show Punjab what real progress looks like — unlike [what] the current government [has achieved]," Zardari said.
He also announced that the PPP will be holding a public meeting in Punjab's Chakri district, the incumbent interior minister's home turf, in the near future — apparently in response to PML-N's attempts to make inroads in Sindh.
Only a day earlier, while addressing a political gathering in Hyderabad, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had said that the PPP had nothing to show for the four years they had spent in charge of Sindh's government.
"All I see is dust when I travel on Karachi's roads. There has been no progress in Karachi, which is Pakistan's economic hub," the premier had said.
While the PPP and PML-N took aim at each other, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan also decided to step into the fray.
Staying true to his cricketing past, he took a dig at the chiefs of both parties on Twitter, saying: "Nawaz in Sindh & Zardari in Punjab — height of Noora Kushti between two experts in match fixing."
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With these exchanges in the backdrop, representatives of all three parties were asked on Geo TV's 'Aaj Shahzaib Khanzada Kay Sath', which aired on March 28, if there was a possibility of a political alliance between them in preparation for the upcoming elections.
PTI's Fahad Chaudhary scoffed at the possibility, saying: "The PPP first needs to decide what they want to do: they spend two months as a 'friendly opposition', then they spend a few months against the government, and so on. They first need to decide amongst themselves, and only then can any other party consider joining forces with them."
When asked if PTI did not buy Zardari's political campaign against the PML-N, Chaudhary said: "People within the PPP do not believe in Asif Ali Zardari — how can we? The way he treated Bilawal and his lack of ability to pick a side has destroyed the PPP, which was once the glue that held all four provinces together."
Qamar Zaman Kaira, a senior leader of the PPP, responded saying: "We do not need a certificate from the PTI or the government to tell us if we are doing the right thing. At this point, our political agenda is against (Imran) Khan, and his is against us; the same way our agenda is against PML-N, and theirs is against us."
When asked about the PPP's political strategy in this context, Kaira said: "Everyone does their homework and devises a political strategy. We did, so did the PML-N and PTI. Some parties do not mind discussing their strategies with the people; we, on the other hand, are not clear what the verdict will be on Panamagate and we will wait for it before we decide which option we will choose from the multiple plans we have devised."
Bringing the PML-N's perspective to the table, Talal Chaudhary said: "Election year is upon us, and it is difficult for any party to reach every district and constituency in a short time. So yes, we have started campaigning for next year's election [from now], and this has nothing to do with Panamagate or the expectation of an early election."
It seems, then, that it is too early for the parties to decide what deals they can cut with their opponents and who they will be marking for an eventual face-off.
As they posture and campaign, all eyes will remain on the Supreme Court, which right now is in the unenviable position to set the tone and tenor for the parties' campaigns in the months to come with its verdict on the Panamagate case.