LAHORE: The push for an anti-Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) platform appears to have started snowballing as the leaders of Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and the Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) demanded with one voice here on Thursday the resignation of Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif’s government in light of the Model Town case.
PAT chief Dr Tahirul Qadri announced that his party would use every “peaceful option available” to seek justice for the victims of the tragedy, as former president and PPP leader Asif Ali Zardari declared that “Shahbaz Sharif would be no more tolerated [in power]” and street agitation would be launched, if need be, for the removal of the Punjab government.
The two party leaders met for around an hour-and-a-half at the PAT secretariat and later spoke to journalists. This was Mr Zardari’s first visit to the PAT secretariat since the assassination of Benazir Bhutto in 2007. A delegation of PPP workers also visited the site where PAT workers had been killed in the alleged police firing.
Major opposition parties already back Dr Qadri
Earlier, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chairman Imran Khan — “the PAT leader’s cousin in the 2014 Islamabad protest” — as well as Awami Muslim League’s Sheikh Rashid called Dr Qadri assuring him of their support in obtaining justice for the victims. Both leaders promised to visit the PAT chief soon. Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid president Chaudhry Shujat and Majlis Wahdatul Muslimeen’s Allama Abbas expressed solidarity with Dr Qadri’s cause a day before.
The PAT chief reiterated his interpretation of Justice Baqar Najafi’s report on the Model Town killings insisting that it was “categorically conclusive” and “fixes responsibility” for 14 deaths in a police raid for removal of road barriers back in June 2014 on Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif and Law Minister Rana Sanaullah. He asked the two leaders to step down, surrender before the law and accept whatever verdict the courts handed to them in the murder case.
The PAT chief said he would take peaceful steps as per the Constitution, the law and democracy if the rulers refused to accept his demands. He expressed hope that all ‘pro-humanity’ forces would lend him support.
Mr Zardari responded to the call announcing: “Now Shahbaz Sharif would be tolerated no more and a street struggle would be launched if need be for his removal.” He said he would not hesitate from boarding Dr Qadri’s container parked outside the PAT offices [to lead a protest march], if asked by Allama Sahib.
The former president said he did not believe that their protest would create space for the entry of a ‘third force’, unlike a similar move made in 1998 when then PPP chairperson Benazir Bhutto and Dr Qadri had formed an alliance — Pakistan Awami Ittehad (PAI) — against the PML-N government back then. The move had led to the imposition of martial law in October 1999.
However, Mr Zardari explained that the “deteriorating” economic conditions of contemporary times, brought about by heavy borrowing by the incumbent government, would keep the ‘third force’ away. “Only a political force could handle such economic conditions,” he insisted.
While responding to a query, the PPP leader said he would not object if the PAT chief wished to forge an electoral alliance with the PPP, but hastened to clarify that this topic had not come under discussion during their meeting. When asked what had made the PPP change its stance on ensuring that all assemblies completed their term, he said his party worked to save democracy, not a “moghul kingdom” — a reference to the ruling style of the Sharif family.
He was also asked if the PPP’s lawmakers would resign from assemblies to pressure the government to move for early polls, he said every option and tool would be considered for the purpose.
Published in Dawn, December 8th, 2017