Dampening spirits: PPP fails to cobble together new front
The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) failed to muster the support for a new front it had hoped to cobble together after leaders of major political groupings chose to skip an iftar dinner hosted by the party’s co-chairman, Asif Ali Zardari, on Friday.
In the wake of Zardari’s outburst against the army generals, the party’s spin doctors, meanwhile, scrambled to give a new twist to the controversy, saying the co-chairman’s remarks were directed only at former military dictators.
Apart from PPP’s former allies MQM, JUI-F, PML-Q and ANP, no leader from other mainstream parties showed up. ANP chief Asfandyar Wali was conspicuous by his absence, while JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman showed up after the iftar.
Both the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) reportedly declined the Iftar invitation. Similarly, though the PPP claimed the PML-N was not invited, sources said the ruling party was invited but it refused to attend the event.
This was in sharp contrast to PPP’s success a few weeks back, when the party managed to bring together almost all mainstream parties, including the ruling party, on a similar gathering to discuss reservations regarding the route of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
Talking to reporters, PPP leaders Sherry Rehman and Qamar Zaman Kaira said the PPP vehemently supports the ongoing Operation Zarb-e-Azb against terrorists. “We strongly support Operation Zarb-e-Azb and we respect General Raheel Sharif a lot,” said Sherry Rehman.
Her statement marked further backtracking from Zardari’s speech on Tuesday in which he seemingly told the army chief that he would hold his office for only three years.
The PPP had to embark on a damage control exercise merely a day after Zardari made the statement. Following a meeting of its central executive committee, the party on Wednesday accused the media of highlighting only a specific part of Zardari’s speech and ignoring the rest.
The next day, PPP Information Secretary Qamar Zaman Kaira accused other political parties of misinterpreting Zardari’s remarks and blowing them out of proportion.
The PPP leaders, in their media talk at the Iftar dinner, said Zardari’s criticism was directed against former military dictators, not at the incumbent leadership of the army. They insisted their party respects army chief General Raheel Sharif.
Kaira said Zardari will continue his policy of reconciliation and Friday’s iftar dinner was part of that policy.
He said the ongoing operation by Rangers in Karachi was backed by all the political parties and his party still supports it.
He said his party believes every institution should work within the parameters of the Constitution and whenever any institution oversteps its mandate things go wrong.
Kaira claimed that PPP would never want to create any chaos in the country, again contradicting Zardari who had threatened to bring the country to a standstill if his ‘character assassination’ was not stopped.
Responding to a battery of questions from the media regarding the controversial remarks, Kaira said a party leader does not need to consult everyone in the party before making any comments.
He said the party owns the statement of Zardari but at the same time explained that it was given in a specific context.
Sherry said the PPP was well aware of dangers the country was confronted with and all the stakeholders should work together for better civil-military cohesion.
To a question about recent arrests of officials linked to PPP on corruption charges in Karachi, she said her party had never supported corruption nor would it do so.
She said the military operation was one part of the National Action Plan chalked out after last year’s terrorist attack at Army Public School, while many other points included in the plan need to be implemented.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 20th, 2015.