Sunday December 05, 2021

PML-N-PPP history of distrust

August 19, 2020

The reported remarks of former president Asif Ali Zardari and Co-chairman PPP about Sharif brothers and the PML-N, confirmed that ‘all is not well’ within the two mainstream parties, which have a history of ‘distrust’ since long.

This statement has further widened the differences between the two parties and dimmed the chances of a Multi Party Conference (MPC), which was scheduled after Eid.

This has been the dilemma of these two mainstream parties in the last two years as they have ditched each other time and again rather posed any serious threat to the government of Prime Minister Imran Khan, who has emerged as the only beneficiary as a result of weak and frustrated Opposition.

The two parties have a long history of distrust but the two leaders who played a key role in it in the post-2008 elections were former interior minister and now discarded PML-N leader Ch Nisar Ali Khan and PPP Senator Aitzaz Ahsan. It seems as the latter’s advice to party leadership not to trust Sharifs prevailed though Zardari had rejected his earlier advice in December 2015 in Dubai to step down as party head and quit politics.

Ch Nisar, on the other hand, despite Nawaz advice to him not to go hard on the PPP, he did not stop the FIA and the NAB to go slow in graft cases against Asif Ali Zardari and his cronies. Dr Asim Hussain’s arrest and video leak in 2015 brought an end to any kind of chances of revival of the relationship between the two.

A well-informed PML-N leader disclosed that when Nawaz Sharif was the prime minister, he wanted to meet Zardari, after the latter’s most controversial speech and statement against the then establishment, he was allegedly advised by Ch Nisar and Kh Asif not to meet and postponed the breakfast meeting as it will not go well within the establishment. The two were not available on phone to confirm whether it’s true or not.

It appeared the young leadership of the PML-N and the PPP Maryam Nawaz and Bilawal Bhutto Zardari respectively became hostage of their elders’ political narrative and failed in removing the distrust among their elders.

Zardari, who has still not forgotten what former prime minister Nawaz Sharif did to him in his last government and played a key role in Balochistan just prior to 2018 elections and later in the election for prime minister, Senate chairman and then what happened during the vote of no-confidence against Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani, when the Opposition despite having comfortable majority could not oust him.

The last time the two party heads met was after the death of Begum Kulsoom Nawaz, when Zardari went to Raiwind for condolence.

Prime Minister Imran Khan and the PTI government have everything to celebrate despite what happened outside the NAB Office last week in Lahore, when Maryam Nawaz came there on ‘call of notice’.

Both Nawaz Sharif and former premier Benazir Bhutto resolved their earlier differences in 2006, some four years after former president Pervez Musharraf, ousted both from mainstream politics. He first sent Nawaz Sharif to Saudi Arabia under a 10-year deal and then ensured ouster of his other rival Benazir Bhutto, whose nomination papers were rejected during 2002 elections.

This led to the ‘Charter of Democracy’ (CoD) after the two admitted they had been used against each other by the establishment. But the story did not end and a few months after CoD, Musharraf sought Benazir’s support at a time when the lawyers’ movement was in full swing.

Both agreed on National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) but not many people know that the two also decided that after 2007 elections, which was later held in 2008 because of Benazir’s assassination that Makhdoom Amin Fahim would be the prime minister, till the restrictions on third time prime minister was not removed from the Constitution.

Nawaz was not happy with the NRO nor were Saudi rulers, who later allowed him to go back and also told Musharraf, bringing an end to the deal. Later, Benazir convinced Nawaz that she would respect CoD and the NRO was the way to oust Musharraf. It was in this backdrop that Nawaz decided to contest the elections despite his agreement with Imran Khan and late Qazi Hussain Ahmad that the three would boycott the elections.

But BB’s assassination was the turning point in country’s politics and the PPP could not recover from the loss till this day.

Zardari, who took the leadership of the PPP soon after her assassination, assured Nawaz that CoD would be implemented. They also signed a Bhurban Accord, under which the PPP government would restore all the deposed judges and as a result for the first time the PPP and the PML-N became coalition partners in the government.

While the PPP became the first party in country’s political history which completed its five years term from 2008 to 2013, the PML- N too completed its term from 2013 to 2018 and now the PTI government is in its third year. But even in those 12 years, political uncertainty prevailed as two prime ministers, PPP’s Yousaf Raza Gilani and the then Nawaz Sharif, were disqualified and makeshift PM completed the remaining term. Both were disqualified by the Supreme Court.

The ‘Karachi operation’ between September 2013 to 2018 had not only succeeded in eliminating terrorism in Karachi and the alleged militant wings of the MQM as well as PPP’s link with Lyari gang of Uzair Baloch, it also changed the political dynamics of Karachi politics.

While the MQM suffered most, the turning point was the arrest of Zardari’s closest friend Dr Asim Hussain and serious charges of terror financing on a number of Zardari’s close aides. He blamed Nawaz for what he did despite latter’s clarification.

All this has given a free hand to Prime Minister Imran Khan and his party to play their shots all over the ground with ease and with complete confidence.

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

Twitter: @MazharAbbasGEO