- Deposed PM says former president’s allegations ‘do not befit head of a national party’
- Questions why PPP co-chairman is ‘speaking truth after three years’, says he expressed displeasure over Zardari’s ‘anti-army’ remarks
LAHORE: A day after Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari accused his former ‘frenemy’ — deposed prime minister Nawaz Sharif of ‘duping’ him into making anti-establishment remarks, the supreme leader of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) on Tuesday returned fire, questioning Zardari’s “innocence” as well as the motive behind bringing up this issue now.
The bitter war of words shows that the political courtship between former president Zardari and the currently beleaguered former premier, Nawaz has reached its tipping point, and the ruling PML-N is likely to face a tough time in parliament from its former ‘friendly opposition’ in the last month of its term in government.
In a statement issued on Tuesday, the former prime minister said that Zardari’s recent statement does not befit the head of a national party, adding that “he does not want to engage in a war of words with the former president”.
A section of the electronic media had on Sunday reported that Zardari termed Nawaz “far more cunning and opportunistic than we thought”. A day later, a PPP spokesperson had denied that Zardari issued any such statement concerning the disqualified prime minister.
Zardari had claimed on Monday that Nawaz had taken every opportunity to discredit him by making him fight with the establishment while he himself extended a hand of friendship towards them.
On Tuesday, Nawaz claimed that he had sent Zardari a message expressing his dislike over the ‘anti-establishment’ remarks the former president had made in a speech in 2015. He added that he then cancelled a planned meeting with Zardari the next day.
In his June 16, 2015, speech, Zardari had criticised the establishment and his political opponents warning them that the day his party took to the streets, not just Sindh’s, but the entire country’s roads will be blocked. He also said that the PPP will destroy “them brick by brick”, in an apparent reference to the military establishment, ruffling a lot of feathers in the General Headquarters in Rawalpindi.
“Why is Zardari now speaking the ‘truth’ after three years,” he asked, asserting that being opposed to former president General (r) Pervez Musharraf shouldn’t be seen as being against an institution.
“To become a part of the government, our conditions were Musharraf’s impeachment, restoration of the deposed judges and abolition of the 17th Amendment,” Nawaz shared. Zardari should remember he came to meet me in Raiwind along with a national political figure, recalled Nawaz. Nawaz claimed he rejected Zardari’s proposal to condone Musharraf’s action by an act of parliament, adding that Zardari is aware that he has nothing to do with the NAB action against Dr Asim Hussain and other Sindh government members.
“Zardari said he was acting on my directions. Now he should tell the public whose puppet he is,” said Nawaz.
The three-time prime minister then advised Zardari to read the writing on the wall and focus on the upcoming elections and refrain from mudslinging.
Meanwhile, PML-N leader and former foreign minister Khawaja Asif alleged that Asif Zardari kept apologising after his controversial 2015 statement about the establishment.
While appearing on a private news channel, the recently disqualified minister stated that Zardari had advised PML-N to try Gen (r) Musharraf in court even though in reality he wanted to protect the former president.
He went on to claim that Zardari had told PML-N that he had given assurances to the United States, United Arab Emirates and Britain that a case will not be filed against the former president.
The former minister also claimed that PML-N had been vital in securing a party position for Zardari, of which Bilawal is a witness.
The revelations by Asif come a day after Zardari revealed that Nawaz Sharif had taken every opportunity to discredit him by making him fight with the establishment while he himself extended a hand of friendship towards them.
Asif added that Zardari had said he would go along with the PML-N with regards to the treason case against the former president.
‘NAWAZ A PAWN’:
On the other hand, PPP leader Saeed Ghani hit back at Nawaz Sharif after the former prime minister advised Asif Ali Zardari to refrain from a war of words and mudslinging.
Talking to reporters in Karachi, Ghani alleged that Nawaz became the establishment’s pawn against the PPP. “Nawaz did nothing to strengthen the parliament or political powers,” the PPP leader added.
The PML-N supremo and PPP co-chairman have indulged in an intense war of words as the elections inch closer and the term of the government about to expire in less than a month, with the names for the caretaker setup not yet agreed upon between the two largest parties in the parliament.
The PPP has taken a hard stance against the ruling PML-N as it has accused its leadership, particularly Nawaz Sharif, of being disloyal while being in an alliance with them. Former president Asif Zardari has even refused to meet former Nawaz Sharif, rejecting his request to meet multiple times.