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February 28, 2017

What is Marwat controversy?


February 28, 2017

Asif Ali Zardari has never faced such a political embarrassment since he became the co-chairman of Pakistan People’s Party like the one he has to, a few days back in the form a spontaneous and sharp reaction from his daughters Bakhtawar Bhutto and Aseefa Bhutto Zardari, over reports that Irfanullah Mawat had joined the PPP after a long meeting with him. What is this controversy all about and reasons behind this reaction?

Mr Marwat, the son-in-law of former president, the late Ghulam Ishaq Khan, remained highly controversial during the tenure of all powerful Sindh chief minister, the late Jam Sadiq Ali. The two, along with former DIG CIA, Samiullah Marwat, were blamed by Benazir Bhutto for unleashing a rein of terror on the PPP leaders and workers, which reminded her of the days of the late General Ziaul Haq.

Sources said Zardari, who is presently working on a game-plan for the election 2018 and the possible gains which the PPP could make through his political manoeuvring, actually wanted the role of the Saifullah family in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, while getting maximum seats in Sindh including Karachi.

Zardari is well aware of Marwat's controversial role during the PML-N second government from 1990 to 1993. The worst example was what happened with Ms Shehla Raza, deputy speaker, Sindh Assembly, and Ms Rahila Tiwana, former speaker of Sindh Assembly. The two were arrested and tortured, humiliated in the CIA Centre. Tiwana even remained under treatment for months in Dr Haroon's psychiatric ward at Jinnah Hospital.

When the PPP came to power in 1993, former DIG CIA Samiullah Marwat was arrested and charged with different offences and subsequently sacked from police.

The PPP also wanted to initiate an inquiry against Irfanullah Marwat in cases of illegal recruitment to police, Veena Hayat, Shehla Raza and Tiwana cases. Many considered Samiullah the front man of Irfanullah Marwat, but no direct charge was ever levelled against him in any court of law. Even Lt-Gen (retd) Shafiqur Rehman Report against the CIA and police accesses avoid direct charge against Jam Sadiq or Irfanullah Marwat. But he did write “What DIG CIA did could not be possible without the blessings and support from the top."

However, the PPP avoided further action despite a comprehensive report about torture, extortion, rape, harassment of political workers, businessmen, prostitutes etc, by the CIA. Report did not rule out the possibility of Irfanullah Marwat and other high-ups of Sindh government and described Samiullah as just a ‘tool’.

Bakhtawar and Aseefa were very young but still remember Benazir's stance against Jam Sadiq or Irfanullah Marwat. Thus, it was their immediate reaction particularly keeping in view the kind of allegations levelled against him.

However, Zardari's politics is aimed at consolidating the PPP position in Sindh including Karachi, no matter to what extent he had to go for the purpose. However, what he did not realise is that in the process he is fast losing the party grounds. It clearly reflected in Punjab and even in Sindh, the voting ratio in support of the PPP has dropped despite increase in number of seats.

Many of them who recently joined the party could also leave the party in case of any major crisis or operation against the PPP in future.

In 2008, he surprised many ideological PPP leaders and workers when he joined hands with Chaudhrys of Gujrat, who still has the pen used by former chief justice of Lahore High Court, Maulvi Mohammad Mushtaq, for writing the decision of death sentence to PPP founder Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.

Some of the PPP leaders, particularly from Gujrat, had reacted over the decision of joining hands with Ch Shujaat. They said they had suffered a lot at the hands of the Chaudhrys of Gujrat, but Zardari did not withdraw his decision, saying it was in party's interest. In 2013, the PPP was wiped out from Gujrat.

Another former PPP leader, Faisal Saleh Hayat, who during Musharraf period was among those PPP leaders who ditched Benazir Bhutto after 2002 elections and made the PPP (Patriot). He has also rejoined the PPP after a meeting with Zardari, in Karachi. He was the main petitioner in the rental power case against former prime minister, Raja Pervaiz Ashraf. Secondly, his return has put his political rival within the PPP, Syeda Abida Hussain from Jhang, in a difficult position as the two have never gone along well.

From Chaudhrys to Marwat, the most interesting part has been their refusal to regret their past positions against the PPP. Rather they defended their positions and even Marwat denied all allegations against him, Faisal refused to withdraw case against Ashraf and Chaudhrys still keep the ‘pen’ as a gift.

However, within the PPP, there have been clear signs of discomfort, particularly the manner through which anti-PPP leaders had been invited to join the party. Many believe that Zardari would be able to get more seats in 2018 in Sindh, but within the party it would face organisational difficulties.

This was reflected when Imtiaz Sheikh, who too was part of Jam Sadiq's government, joined the PPP and contested elections, blamed the local PPP in his constituency for working against him.

By making all these decisions, Zardari has put PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari in a difficult, rather embarrassing, position. On the one hand, he is trying to build the party on ideological lines, but on the other hand, Zardari, who is also the president of Pakistan People’s Party Parliamentarians (PPP-P), is working only to gain maximum seats in the next elections at any cost. However, it is quite clear now that the PPP would not be able to get much in Punjab, except for something in southern Punjab.

Sources said Zardari also knew that in case the Supreme Court decision in Panama case leads to disqualification or resignation of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, chance of early election could not be ruled out. Thus, he wanted to take political advantage as he knew that in the next elections, the Punjab seats would be divided between the PML-N and the PTI, and a divided mandate suits his politics of manoeuvring.

As compared to Chaudhrys or others, Irfanullah Marwat hardly has any constituency of his own, except for Mahmoodabad area, but he carries too much baggage against the PPP. So, why did Mr Zardari take this unpopular decision? It is because he wanted to please the Saifullah family and, in return, get their support in KP, or due to some kind of pressure from certain quarters to include Marwat in his team against his own wish.

Dissent over such an issue within the party and family itself is a healthy sign, but what Shehla Raza, a victim of that era, said had a lot of meanings. “Politics has become a very crude profession. I have accepted many things against my political desire and ideology, as this is how politics runs in this country.

“I respect BB's daughters for their reaction. My reaction would have been the same 10 years back. Today, if the party decides to accept him, I have no problem," she said and said it all, without saying much.

 The writer is a senior columnist and analyst of Geo, The News and Jang.

Twitter: @MazharAbbasGEO