Zardari lashes out at PM over ‘incompetence’

Updated 11 Jul 2020

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This photo released by the Pakistan Peoples Party shows former president Asif Ali Zardari talking to Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman during a meeting in Karachi on Friday. PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari is also seen.
This photo released by the Pakistan Peoples Party shows former president Asif Ali Zardari talking to Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman during a meeting in Karachi on Friday. PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari is also seen.

KARACHI: Top leadership of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) vowed on Friday to jointly strive for the sake of the “country’s survival and integrity” and agreed that Pakistan and Prime Minister Imran Khan-led government could not go together, terming the opposition parties the centre of people’s hope to get rid of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf rule.

The resolve came at the first meeting of its kind between top leaders of the two major parties in more than six months when JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman visited Bilawal House to hold a meeting with PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari and former president Asif Ali Zardari for over one hour and a half. The meeting came as a ‘pleasant surprise’ for PPP workers and voters who saw Mr Zardari in his first political engagement after his release by the National Accountability Bureau on the high court orders in December 2019, ending speculation about his health mainly over social media.

Though there was no word or press release from the JUI-F about the meeting nor any of the side invited reporters for interaction after the sitting, a statement issued by the PPP suggested that the three leaders agreed on launching a joint struggle, revival of opposition activities and challenging the PTI government on different fronts, including proposed review of the 18th Amendment and formation of the National Finance Commission (NFC).

Maulana Fazl holds meeting with Bilawal, ex-president

Though the statement carried thoughts of the three leaders they shared during the meeting, the words chosen for Mr Zardari sounded more aggressive and forceful against PM Imran Khan as he termed the PTI government “arrogant and egoistic.” He also suggested an effective and active role of the opposition parties.

“I had already warned that Imran Khan is not competent to run the government,” the statement quoted the former president as having said during the meeting. “The crisis during the coronavirus pandemic has further exposed Imran Khan’s incompetence. The people of Pakistan have now pinned their hopes on opposition parties to get them rid of this selected government.”

Mr Zardari also recalled his warning in his National Assembly address last year against the approaching challenges of locust attacks. He regretted that his concern was not heard and the country now was in the midst of such a crisis.

“I warned the government last year about the locust attacks but the government only due to its ego and arrogance did not pay heed to my concern. Even today if the required measures are not taken, the country would be facing an agriculture and food crisis,” he said.

Mr Bhutto-Zardari in his conversation at the meeting called the PTI government most corrupt in the history of Pakistan, which had been “following the policy of vendetta against its political opponents”.

“Imran Khan and Pakistan cannot go along,” the statement quoted the PPP chairman as saying. “Imran Khan is using NAB for vengeance and to victimise his political opponents. The opposition parties of the country are united against the selected government, which has failed to initiate a single project for the relief of people in two years.”

The leaders from both sides, the statement said, agreed that that any attempt to roll back the 18th Amendment could lead to dangerous consequences for the federation and weaken the already struggling democratic system of the country. They also rejected the budget 2020-21 and decided to challenge any move against financial support to the provinces through reformation of the NFC.

Maulana Fazl agreed with the PPP leadership over its concerns and thoughts about the PTI government and referred to the recent economic crisis which had led to negative growth in the last fiscal.

“Pakistan economy has never faced such a disastrous situation. For the sake of economy, we have to challenge the selected government,” he said.

Published in Dawn, July 11th, 2020