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FORMER president Asif Ali Zardari and Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari addressing the press conference.—Online
FORMER president Asif Ali Zardari and Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari addressing the press conference.—Online

LAHORE: Former president Asif Ali Zardari on Thursday reiterated his stance that he would not join hands with ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif, though he hastened to add that in the game of politics, nothing was ever set in stone.

Speaking at a press conference alongside his father, Pakistan Peoples Party chairperson Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari advised the Sharif family to not expect relief from the PPP at this crucial juncture in the lives of the former ruling family. Mr Bhutto-Zardari also objected to the re-emergence of banned outfits in electoral politics.

Responding to a question, Mr Zardari stressed: “How should I assure [you] that I won’t join hands with Mian Nawaz Sharif?...Neither have I met Nawaz Sharif nor is it possible...and neither should it even take place.”

He said many erroneously believed that he had personal ties with the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz leader, and quipped: “How could I? I don’t even eat paya,” in a reference to the ex-PM’s supposedly favourite food. Referring to the PPP’s support for the Nawaz-led government during the 2014 sit-in, he said the party had sided with parliament, not with an individual or the government.

Says elections are around the corner and it’s time for own politics

Commenting on the proposed grand national dialogue Mr Sharif intends to hold in order to abolish Articles 62 and 63 of the Constitution, Mr Zardari said the PML-N government had, unfortunately, rejected a suggestion to the effect a few months ago during discussions on election reforms and it was too late now. “The elections are around the corner and it’s time for one’s own politics rather than holding dialogue with others. It’s too late now to strike an agreement with any party. ”

The hitherto most vocal advocate of reconciliation, however, said that nothing could be stated as the last and final word in politics and that the assumption that any party could be eliminated from politics was also incorrect.

He told a reporter that Mr Sharif did not behave like a politician after coming to power and that he did not see the Sharifs featuring prominently in future politics.

Responding to a query about Minister Khawaja Asif’s remarks that he would use his friendship with Mr Zardari to ease the latter’s tensions with Mr Sharif, the PPP leader admitted that he had had [good] relations with Mr Asif when he was in exile, but they had had no meetings since the PML-N came to power in 2013. “Relations need continuous investment. Even one’s real brother does not attend one’s phone call [if contacted] after four years.”

Commenting on the rally Mr Sharif had taken out after his ouster, he said it was a joke that the Sharifs had wanted to be in the government and in the opposition simultaneously.

About the PPP’s possible performance in the next elections, Mr Zardari said that he was president in 2013, and was thus legally barred from joining the party’s electioneering. “But now that the leadership is going to stay in Lahore, things will definitely improve.”

Mr Bhutto-Zardari advised the Sharifs not to pin their hopes on the PPP for any relief (change in stance) as the party would now roll ahead with its ideological progressive politics.

Referring to the Jamaat-ud-Dawah’s rechristening as Milli Muslim League, he objected that banned outfits were changing names to take part in politics in violation of the National Action Plan.

Replying to a question, he said his party had always talked of across-the-board accountability, but here it seemed as if the law had been framed only to target the PPP.

He vowed to go to each and every nook of the corner of the country to build a campaign for a prosperous and progressive Pakistan.

After receiving a warm welcome in Chiniot on Aug 12, the PPP chairperson is now scheduled to speak at public meetings in Mansehra on Aug 19 and Attock on Aug 24.

Published in Dawn, August 18th, 2017

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