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December 18, 2018

What can Zardari do?

National

December 18, 2018

Former president Asif Ali Zardari has dropped a ‘bombshell’ Sunday when he decided to take a confrontational path for ousting the government of Prime Minister Imran Khan, which otherwise looked strong at the moment and on ‘one page’ with all those who matter.

So what possible cards the PPP leader has in his hands when he hinted towards ‘mid-term polls’, the term first used by Imran himself in a different context few weeks ago. The PPP leader has already launched a sort of a ‘mini-movement’ in Sindh against the Centre and expected to make an important ‘announcement’ on December 27 in the public meeting at Garhi Khuda Buksh on the 11th death anniversary of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto. So far it is the PPP and Zardari’s solo flight and that too has confined to Sindh province where the party’s provincial government also looked a bit disturbed with certain political developments.

About a month back the provincial government had submitted all its record from 2008 to 2018, on the directive of the Joint Investigation Team constituted by the Supreme Court to probe into ‘fake accounts’, scam in which not only Zardari, but his sister Faryal Talpur and son Bilawal Bhutto had also been summoned more than once.

There are more than one reasons as why the PPP and Zardari decided to mobilise its voters and supporters in Sindh, as the party looked in complete disarray in other three provinces but the PPP leaders said after December 27, the party will hold public meetings in other provinces as well. Besides, Zardari was also trying to upset the PTI’s government inside the Parliament and create cracks within the coalition. He has recently met Sardar Akhtar Mengal, whose party is part of the coalition, but not happy as some of his demands were not accepted.

Sources said the PPP leader also intends to make a major breakthrough with the MQM-P and will meet its leadership soon as the latter too are not happy over non-implementation of its six-point accord with the PTI.

But will Zardari go to an extent to ‘shake hand’ with the key Opposition leader and former premier Nawaz Sharif, whose mysterious silence and that of his daughter Maryam Nawaz raised many questions over the future plan of the PML-N.

There is still an element of distrust between Zardari and Nawaz and both are not sure about their respective moves. Nawaz wants to see as how far Zardari would go before they decide to join hands.

The tone of Zardari in the last few days has been so aggressive that even some of the key PPP leaders were surprised over his possible next move. Some believe that without naming them directly he has taken a huge risk during his multiple attacks on the PTI, judiciary and Establishment.

On the other hand, the PTI government led by Imran Khan has decided to follow the policy of ‘wait and see’ and let the NAB and FIA to speed up their investigations and rest leaving it to the superior judiciary.

Lot of political happenings is expected in the first two quarters of 2019 and there will be many political moves from both sides as their cases would also get mature. I am not sure Zardari has enough cards left to play as cases and inquires against the key Opposition leaders mainly from the PPP and the PML-N are in final stages which includes beside Zardari his sister Faryal Talpur and others on the one hand while former premier Nawaz Sharif awaits verdict from the NAB, which is expected by the end of this month. Sources said the NAB court verdict in Nawaz case now expected within a week or 10 days, the fate of Zardari and his sister Faryal in ‘fake accounts’ probe also expected in a week as JIT would submit its report by the end of this month.

Besides, former chief minister Shahbaz Sharif, his son Hamza Shahbaz, vocal PML-N leader Kh Saad Rafique and others were still facing NAB investigation and likewise Dr Asim Hussain, Sharjeel Memon and others.

I believe Zardari had already missed opportunities for upsetting the PTI government and Imran. In the last two years, starting with the political crisis in Balochistan, followed by Senate elections and that of its chairman, prime minister and presidential elections, the PPP moves helped Imran to form a coalition government at the Centre and in Punjab. Some of his actions even created discomfort within his own party on issues like not allowing his own party leader senator Raza Rabbani to get elected as Senate chairman, unopposed.

In a bid to take some kind of political revenge from former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, whose previous government was held responsible for taking actions against AZ’s close aides and even ignored Nawaz’s message to him that some other forces were behind the move.

All this led to so much bitterness among the two to an extent that first Zardari avoided meeting Nawaz, and now the latter was showing reluctance. The last such attempt to bring them close for the revival of ‘Charter of Democracy’, when JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman held number of meetings with both the leaders. The Maulana was disappointed with both Zardari and Nawaz and despite holding few public meetings he could not generate much support from the platform of the MMA as Jamaat-e-Islami showed little interest in his political moves.

Soon after July 25 elections, Maulana proposed that Opposition MNAs should not take oath on the pretext that elections were rigged, but both the PPP and the PML-N opposed the move.

His second move was to bring Zardari and Nawaz on one platform and floated the idea of Grand Opposition Alliance and called All Parties Conference for this purpose. He held several meetings with both these leaders but failed due to trust deficit. During all these 100 days of the PTI government, the Opposition hardly gave tough time to Prime Minister Imran Khan, whose government despite making some blunders and rise in petrol, gas and electricity charges beside US dollar reaching record high did not face any major challenge from key Opposition parties. Therefore, as situation stand today, it looks difficult for Zardari and Opposition to create a situation, which could lead to mid-term polls unless Imran himself decide after the local bodies’ elections scheduled at the end of next year or one or two coalition partners part ways.

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

Twitter: @MazharAbbasGEO