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LAHORE: Yet another pact between the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) might just be around the corner as leaders of both these formidable political entities are seemingly willing to assist each other at a juncture when they are not only facing serious corruption cases, but are also confronting a rather hostile incumbent Prime Minister, who has repeatedly vowed publicly that he would not offer any reprieve to those found guilty of looting the kitty.
Well, despite all their political differences and historic enmity, the leaderships of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and the Pakistan People’s Party, country’s major political parties, have been forging such alliances since the signing of the 'much-trumpeted' Charter of Democracy in London on May 14, 2006.
Call them short-term treaties, dub them need-based accords, agreements or label it as a love-hate relationship, Messrs Asif Ali Zardari and Nawaz Sharif have often tried to draft and ink many of these expediency-driven contracts and then pull on the rather fragile thread of their weak “friendship bond” on numerous occasions, though both these politicians have failed to come together at vital moments that mattered most.
Research undertaken by ther “Jang Group and Geo Television Network” shows that the PPP and PML-N ties have thus seen many ups and downs during these 13 years, where they were seen ditching and trusting each other, besides embracing and lashout out at will on various occasions.
But this time, Messrs Nawaz Sharif and Asif Zardari are seemingly on their way to join hands for a longer period of time and assist each other at a juncture when the national anti-corruption watchdog - the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) - is in a relentless mood.
On March 28, 2018, deposed Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had expressed his regrets over taking the Memogate controversy to the Supreme Court in 2011. He asserted he should have stayed away from the issue, rather than going to the court to demanding a probe into what President Zardari and his lieutenants may have done in this issue.
The case pertains to a controversial memo allegedly written by former Pakistani ambassador to the United States, Hussain Haqqani, to the then US military chief, Admiral Mike Mullen, against Pakistan Army.
Wearing a black coat, Nawaz had literally jolted Zardari and Company about eight years ago by moving the Apex Court. Sharif had petitioned the Supreme Court, whereby seeking an inquiry into the matter to determine the role of Asif Zardari’s government.
Subsequently, a Commission headed by Justice Qazi Faez Isa, who was chief justice of the Balochistan High Court at that time, had conducted the inquiry and submitted its report to the apex court. The matter has been pending before the Supreme Court since then.
The Memogate controversy, we all know, had triggered a confrontation between the then government and the military leadership. By the way, in November 2017, Asif Zardari had refused to meet Nawaz Sharif for the fourth time within three months, saying his party was ‘not ready to be used’ to save an individual who was corrupt.
On October 9, 2017, referring to Nawaz Sharif, former President Zardari had said in an interview that a disqualified individual could not become a party’s head in a democratic system.
And on August 16 of the same year, Zardari had said that he had no interest in establishing contact with Nawaz Sharif. But now, Asif Zardari is visibly in need of an urgent PML-N support to save himself and his sister from the ongoing money laundering and fake accounts cases.
As stated in an earlier paragraph, Nawaz Sharif had failed to get any support from the PPP, when he was facing court cases. Not long ago, during March 2019, Asif Zardari’s son Bilawal had met the imprisoned Nawaz Sharif at Lahore’s Kot Lakhpat jail and inquired about his health.
Nawaz Sharif, we all know, has been serving a seven-year prison term at Lahore’s Kot Lakhpat Jail since December 24, 2018 when an accountability court had convicted him in the Al-Azizia Steel Mills corruption reference. He had got a six-week bail in between for medical treatment, but was again sent behind bars by the Supreme Court.
A peek into some PPP and PML-N’s partnerships reveals that in May 2008, the federal ministers belonging to the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) had submitted their resignations to Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani.
However, the Prime Minister had politely refused to accept the resignations, saying the decision to accept or otherwise would be decided after the arrival of Co-Chairman Pakistan People’s Party, Asif Zardari.
The ministers had submitted their resignation six weeks after the PML-N had joined the coalition government led by Pakistan People’s Party. The ministers had taken oath of office on March 31, 2008.
The two major partners in the four-party coalition had actually failed to agree to the mode of restoration of judges, who were deposed under the imposition of emergency on November 3, 2007 by Gen Pervez Musharraf.
In December 2012, the-then Punjab Chief Minister, Shahbaz Sharif, had accused Asif Ali Zardari of robbing the nation of billions of rupees, adding he would retrieve its looted wealth from the sitting President.
Addressing an inauguration ceremony of the Pakpattan Hydro Electric Power Project, Shahbaz had added that the Pakistan People’s Party-led government had taken the country to the brink of destruction.
On another occasion, he had emotionally pledged to “dissect Zardari’s stomach” and retrieve the hoodwinked national wealth. After the PML-N had returned victorious during the 2013 elections to form a government, the PPP leadership had opted to extend a shoulder to the-then government for full two years, from June 2013 to June 2015.
On August 23, 2013, Asif Zardari had hosted a dinner at the Presidency for the newly-elected Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. And on September 5, 2013, a farewell luncheon by the-then Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had honoured the out-going President, Asif Zardari. Both leaders had showered praises on each other during the function.
The PPP had provided crucial support to the PML-N government throughout 2014. In April 2014, after tensions had mounted between Sharif's government and the military leadership for a number of reasons, Ch Shujaat Hussain had demanded the disqualification of legislators who defamed the Army.
However, the PPP leadership had resiliently stood beside a panicky Nawaz Sharif at this testing time.
PPP’s Khursheed Shah had stated: “The current situation in the country does not allow any dictatorship and the judiciary will also not endorse any misadventure.” It was also during April 2014 that Asif Zardari had his loyalists had also supported Nawaz Sharif when calls to remove his Defence Minister, Khawaja Asif, had surfaced.
Khawaja Asif had found himself at the centre of a controversy following his remarks on former President Pervez Musharraf’s treason trial and his outburst against the Pakistan Army. And then came the most crucial support from the PPP, after Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri had led a long march to Islamabad in August 2014, followed by the sit-in and the storming of the capital's Red Cone by their supporters.
On August 29 of the same year, Chief of the Army Staff, Gen Raheel Shareef, had met both Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri. This meeting with the Army Chief had made Imran famously say, “The referee had raised his finger.”
Nawaz Sharif was on the back foot, struggling to survive. The PPP leadership then came forward and advised Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to convene a joint session of Parliament. Resultantly, the Upper and Lower Houses of the Parliament had met on September 2, 2014.
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf’s rebellious President, Javed Hashmi, had resigned from Parliament during this Joint Session. And somehow, cutting it short, the PML-N government had survived the 126-day long protest led by Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri.
Zardari continued to support the government during the first few months of 2015. On August 26, 2015, Rangers had arrested a noted PPP leader and former Petroleum Minister, Dr Asim Hussain, from his office in Clifton, Karachi.
And in September 2015, Asif Zardari had accused Nawaz Sharif of “repeating the vindictive politics of the 1990s”. This phase of the Pakistan People’s Party and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz had thus come to end. And then came the “Panama Papers” on April 2, 2016.
The trove of leaked documents from the Panamanian law firm “Mossack Fonseca” had changed the Pakistani politics, as Pakistan Supreme Court had dismissed Nawaz Sharif on July 28, 2017 in a corruption case, which had stemmed from these Panama Papers.
Nawaz Sharif was the second world leader, along with Iceland’s Premier Sigmundur David, to lose the prized office as a result of the Panama Papers leak. Although Sharif’s name had never appears in the Panama Papers and he was not directly involved in the business interactions detailed in the documents, his children were determined to have purchased luxury properties in London using offshore holdings.
Asif Zardari publicly dubbed Sharif corrupt and dishonest. On October 20, 2017, he had demanded the immediate arrest of the Sharifs.
On November 22, 2017, after having attended a NAB hearing pertaining to graft allegations linked to the Panama Papers scandal, Nawaz Sharif had expressed frustration over PPP’s stance adopted during the whole case.
He was quoted as saying: “PPP remembered the law of the dictator while they forgot the one given by Bhutto? I feel like tearing up the Charter of Democracy.” In May 2018, Asif Ali Zardari had said that the PML-N supermo, Nawaz Sharif, had been in politics for last 30 years and was only an instrument of the Establishment who worked against the elected and democratic governments.
Zardari had asserted that in his quest for power, Sharif was not even ready to be loyal to his own country and was busy maligning vital national institutions at the behest of his international masters. In response, Nawaz Sharif had said that everyone would be held accountable for corruption, adding that none would be spared.