Zardari outweighs, outwits allies, rivals

By: Ashraf Mumtaz      Published: 12:11 PM, 17 Mar, 2021
Zardari outweighs, outwits allies, rivals
File photo.

PPP leader and former president Asif Ali Zardari, who is known for his clever political moves, once again outweighed and outwitted everyone – this time by causing the postponement of the March 26 long march on Islamabad that was aimed to mount unbearable pressure on the PTI government to quit. 

The former president’s latest move has put even the fate of the 10-party Pakistan Democratic Movement at stake, making future politics more unpredictable.

Only recently had he defeated the ruling coalition by getting PPP’s Yusuf Raza Gilani elected as Senator from a general seat of Islamabad despite the fact that the opposition did not have the required numerical strength in the National Assembly which was the electoral college. Making the known IMF man Dr Hafeez Shaikh, who is running the country’s economy, bite the dust was not an easy task. But Zardari made it possible by whatever strategy he adopted for the purpose. 

Husband of the assassinated former prime minister Benazir Bhutto and son-in-law of the executed premier ZA Bhutto, Mr Zardari has re-established that he is smarter than almost all politicians and has the capability to kill several birds with one stone. 

On Tuesday, leaders of the Pakistan Democratic Movement were present at a PML-N-hosted meeting in Islamabad to finalize strategy for the long march and en masse resignations from assemblies. Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, ensconcing in London for the past 16 months for ‘heart’ treatment but actually hammering out plans to oust the government at the earliest, participated through video link. 

He and PDM chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman, both out of power for the time being, are losing patience and want some miracle to happen to throw the Imran government out. Both are of view that collective resignations will create a very serious crisis for the government to handle and fresh elections would become unavoidable. 

When the matter was taken up, former president Zardari came up with some suggestions – in fact demands – which put the three-time former prime minister in an embarrassing situation.

He asked Mr Sharif to return to the country if he wanted the PDM legislators to submit resignations and continue struggle against the government.

For a potent movement against the government, the PPP leader said, everybody should be prepared to go to jail.

This is a very legitimate demand. There is no justification for the supreme leader of the country’s biggest opposition party to continue to stay abroad on one pretext or the other and expect the people to offer sacrifices to pave the way for the PML-N’s return to power. 

Maryam Nawaz, the daughter of the former premier, told Mr Zardari that asking her father to return to the country in the prevailing situation was like handing his life over to the “murderers.” 

“The office-holders of the PML-N, its leaders and its voters do not want to see the life of Mian Sahib in danger. Neither the people of Pakistan want this. We need to have alive leaders and not their dead bodies,” she has been quoted as saying. 

Maryam Nawaz recalled her father had faced worst and longest imprisonment and even suffered heart attacks while in custody. 

More significantly, she said no one had the right to ask Mr Sharif to come back to Pakistan without fully recovering.

This may seem to be a good political argument but the demand made by Mr Zardari is far more logical.

The de facto PML-N chief is forgetting that her uncle Shehbaz Sharif is also experiencing jail during the same PTI rule, and cousin Hamza has just come out of jail after some 18 months. If they have survived (despite all alleged tyranny) what is it that the former prime minister is afraid of?

As of now the PPP is not in favour of quitting the assemblies as such a move would amount to leaving the field open for the rival PTI. 

Whether the PPP is willing to review its stand on resignations will be decided by the party’s central executive committee, a date for which is yet to be set. 

Any decision taken by the CEC would be communicated to the PDM which would examine it afresh after which new strategy would be worked out. 

Then the holy month of Ramazan is less than four weeks away.

This clearly means that long march or any other future decision would be possible only after Eid. And that will be time when sun will become unbearable. 

In the given situation it can be safely predicted that the anti-government movement will take quite some time to come back to life – and that too if the former prime minister returns to Pakistan. For the time being his passport stands cancelled and he will have to follow the official procedure to be able to land in Pakistan. 

Then he has to face cases pending against him.  

Who knows if the PPP refuses to review its decision on resignations or if Mr Zardari sets another precondition to quit the assemblies? 

For the time being the PTI government has got an unbelievable relief and the PDM a stunning blow.

Without taking the PPP along the PDM will not be able to oust the PTI government. In fact the assemblies can be run despite resignations if the PPP doesn’t stand by the PDM.