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KARACHI/HYDERABAD: Accusing the federal government of its involvement in the disappearance of two close aides to former president Asif Zardari, provincial leadership of the Pakistan Peoples Party announced on Sunday that it would launch a protest drive and stage sit-ins across Sindh if the “missing” aides were not produced in court within the next 24 hours.

The two aides — Ghulam Qadir Marri and Ashfaq Leghari — have gone “missing” over the weekend and the PPP suspected that they had been taken into custody by the powers that be who the party thought plotting against Mr Zardari.

On Sunday, the PPP gave a strong reaction to the mysterious disappearance of the duo. It held two press conferences in Karachi and Hyderabad and lashed out at the federal government as well as its agencies, declaring that anything against Mr Zardari would be considered against the PPP.

“If Asif Ali Zardari is the target then arrest all of us...from Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari to every worker, we all are his associates...arrest the whole party,” PPP-Sindh President Nisar Khuhro said in Karachi.

In Hyderabad, Maula Bux Chandio made it clear that those who wanted to see a split in the PPP would be disappointed as unlike “a particular party” which was targeted in Karachi “the PPP will remain intact”.

Speaking at a press conference, Mr Khuhro said the only crime of Mr Marri and Mr Leghari was that they were close to PPP and Mr Zardari. They should have been produced before a court of law if there was any criminal case against them, he said.

He asked as to who was behind their “kidnapping” if they were not picked up by the Rangers or the National Accountability Bureau. “If the government starts kidnapping its own people then what difference left between it and dacoits,” he asked.

He said the issue was whether the people were powerful or the establishment?

“We have faced such excesses in the past...we have suffered imprisonment but none of our workers would bargain or surrender,” he added.

To a question, Mr Khuhro said that such actions against the PPP had been initiated only to influence the upcoming general elections.

Mr Khuhro, who is the senior minister in Murad Ali Shah-led cabinet, demanded the federal government to stop “kidnapping people from Sindh”.

In a thinly veiled reference to Muttahida Qaumi Movement founder Altaf Hussain, he said those who spoke against the country while living in London were “being provided relief”, but those who spoke for the people were being victimised.

Meanwhile, Mr Chandio told a press conference in Hyderabad that the policy to have disappeared citizens was a “dangerous trend” and would harm the federation.

He said Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan was giving threats for a long time and it appeared that he implemented his threats.

He said that Mr Zardari was the co-chairman of the party and anything against him would be considered against the PPP.

“They first target a particular party in Karachi and now the PPP is being targeted,” he said: “But you will not get same results [split in the MQM] in the PPP, which will remain intact”.

Published in Dawn, April 10th, 2017