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January 18, 2018

Qadri’s show only reflects deep division, mistrust

ISLAMABAD: The careful yet under compulsion division of evening session of Dr Tahirul Qadri-led opposition show in Lahore amply demonstrated the deep divide and mistrust that still exists between Imran Khan and Asif Zardari for all practical purposes.

Still the PPP leadership seemed satisfied as they shared stage with PTI courtesy PAT leadership. For PTI, it was like a bitter political pill in the name of “one point agenda” as they plan to take on the Sharifs in the crucial 2018 elections. Still their only point of convergence between them is to weaken PML-N and its provincial government with an ultimate aim to dislodge it in days and weeks to come.

In the run up to elections, securing a much needed political space seems the ultimate aim of PPP leadership in the Punjab province. PTI, having made inroads into Punjab’s urban centres effectively through 2013 elections needs to further boost its presence as they know without a sizeable share of Punjab seats in the National assembly their dream to secure central government can never be realized.

But the PPP and PTI share many points of divergence with a bleak chance to bridge the much evident political gaps. With Zardari and Imran having resorted to scathing and frontal attacks against each other throughout the last weeks and months, their workers, second-third tier leaders are to date not able to walk along each other. And this was amply demonstrated in the Wednesday PAT show as PTI and a small section of PPP workers stood aloof and separate from each other.

In the first session, one could only hear PAT slogans. PTI workers were however vocal in the second session. Though respective party workers refrained from raising slogans against each other as per requirement of the day. Still their hatred for each other seemed mutual.

On Wednesday, despite tall claims by PAT, Imran had refused to sit with Zardari on a stage in person, though delegations sat quietly without engaging each other.

So the first session in the evening was short and brief. Zardari and entourage had to leave the proceedings to pave way for Imran’s arrival. So even when Zardari was able to make some ceremonial political space in the Punjab courtesy PAT show. But still Imran remained in the lead role, was given prime time slot in the second session of the moot. Zardari and PPP remained a side kick.

During his turn, Zardari was upbeat but brief. He didn’t announce anything concrete like a possible dissolution of Sindh Assembly as was speculated by PAT Secretary General Khurram Nawaz Gandapur on a news channel. But his claims fell flat within minutes. Only Sheikh Rashid announced his lone resignation from the National Assembly seat, that too vaguely. No other top politician from PPP or PTI ruling Sindh and KP province respectively followed suit.

Imran consoled Sheikh Rashid hinting at a possibility to join him, but after consultation with party cadres. Imran’s assurance was however evasive. Such expected resignations are not expected in the days and weeks to come as both the provincial government ruled by opposition parties are indulged in mass scale developmental workers till expiry of their 5 years term in June this year.

Zardari’s discourse even didn’t come close to such an expectation, and instead boasted he could send the ruler home anytime he wished. The PPP supremo however seemed keen in prolonging of the PAT led agitation against the Punjab government in particular, and Sharifs in general.

Interestingly, Zardari mentioned the Kasur incident and the killing of innocent Zainab, but he along with Dr Qadri skipped the mere mention of such incident in KP in which a minor girl Asma was strangulated to death after sexual assault. But the ‘efficient’ KP police first tried to hush it up by terming it a murder, later in the day the IG police hinted at the possible sexual assault.

Early in the day, during his visit to Kasur, Punjab chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif had appealed to political parties not to politicize heinous crime as happened in the case of Kasur and now Mardan incident.

Ironically, on his turn, Imran mentioned young child Asma’s murder investigation as a success of KP police though it was a belated effort to cover up inefficiency after revelations by the Mardan district Nazim who belongs to ANP. But Imran applied undue and monologue praise on KP police.

In the same breath Imran was very vocal on Zainab’s issue and bashing of the Punjab police, and had on this day made it to this PAT public meeting to seek justice for 12 innocent people murdered in Model Town due to police firing in 2014. All through Wednesday, the social media missed Imran’s expected tweet on the Mardan incident located in the province ruled by PTI. It however didn’t arrive.

Earlier, Zardari could see the token PPP presence in the public meeting venue in a city which was once a citadel of PPP jiyalas. No more. Since 1976, PPP has not been able to install its chief minister in the province. Even though it was part of the coalition government in 90s with the then PML-Junejo, and then with the PML-N during 2008-12 period.

In the post 2018 elections scenario the PPP supremo is just eyeing some national and a few provincial assembly seats that could make him a formidable player in case there is a hung parliament with no party able to secure a clear cut majority.