ISLAMABAD: Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari on Tuesday urged the former prime minister and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) supremo Nawaz Sharif to return to Pakistan to strengthen the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM).
The two senior leaders spoke during a meeting of the anti-government alliance, wherein the former president told Nawaz that he must be ready to go to jail if they wish to fight against the establishment.
“Nawaz Sharif sahab, if you are prepared to fight a war, you will have to return to your country,” a local news outlet quoted Zardari as saying.
Zardari said that he remained in jail for 14 years. He urged PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif to return to the country at the earliest. He complained that PML-N Senator Ishaq Dar did not come to Pakistan to cast his vote in the Senate election.
“The struggle against the establishment should be aimed at achieving democratic stability, instead of settling personal scores,” Zardari told the meeting.
Nawaz, who attended the meeting through video link, was told that he needs to return whether the PDM moves forward with a long march or a no-confidence motion. Zardari further said that Nawaz’s presence was extremely important to secure support from Punjab.
Zardari said that the PPP “is ready to fight until its last breath”, adding how he “gave powers to the parliament and approved the NFC (National Finance Commission Award) for which my party and I were punished”.
Speaking to Nawaz about the idea of mass resignations, Zardari maintained that such a move would only help Prime Minister Imran Khan and the members of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government.
“Mian sahab if you want en masse resignations then not only us, everyone will have to go to jail.”
He further stated that no move would be made to divide the parties of the PDM, emphasising that their war is within the parliament, not from the mountains.
“When you return to Pakistan, we will hand over our resignations to you,” Zardari added, urging both Nawaz Sharif and Ishaq Dar to return.
PDM chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman and former premier Nawaz Sharif had asked Zardari to agree to their unanimous demand for submitting resignations before launching of the long march on March 26.
However, according to sources in the PDM, Zardari while addressing the PDM meeting through a video link, blew away the PDM’s top leaders by asking Nawaz to end his self-exile in London and return to Pakistan to lead the long march.
“Be it a long march or a vote of no confidence (against Prime Minister Imran Khan), you (Nawaz Sharif) have to return home and lead as you are represent Punjab,” he said. “Don’t make decisions that will divide us,” remarked the PPP leader.
“I am not afraid of the establishment […] When Shaheed Bibi (Benazir Bhutto) came Pakistan in 1986 and 2007, she mobilised the public and then started the march. The long march must be planned as it was done in 1986 and 2007,” Zardari reminded his colleagues.
He told the meeting that PPP was a democratic force and it had waged struggle against the establishment.
Defending her father, PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz stressed that her father’s “life is in danger” and questioned how he could return under the circumstances. “Does Zardari sahab guarantee that my father’s life will not be in danger in Pakistan?”
Maryam then reportedly said that she is there “of her own accord”. “Just like you are on video link, so is Mian sahab,” she said.
She said that Nawaz’s life is “threatened under NAB custody” and that he had suffered “two heart attacks while in jail”.
Separately, Interior Minister Sheikh Rasheed told a local news station that Zardari doesn’t want his lawmakers to resign from the assemblies.
“He is not in favour of resigning from the assemblies and he has conveyed this message to Nawaz two or three days ago,” the minister said. Sharif won’t return to Pakistan “at any cost,” he added.
Rasheed said he had a meeting with PM Khan earlier in the morning and the premier made it clear that he wouldn’t bow down before the opposition.
The government would allow the opposition to stage a sit-in or hold a long march as long as they remain in constitutional bounds, he said.
Similarly, Special Assistant to the Punjab Chief Minister on Information Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan on Tuesday said the opposition alliance is unable to decide about resignations even after six months.
The special aide took to Twitter and termed the alliance as a group of the corrupt. The opportunist and corrupt godfathers having ugly political faces talk about taking the country out of crises, she added.
Firdous said every member of PDM wants to control the alliance by proving themselves as the biggest leader. Imran Khan will remain the prime minister until 2023 regardless of PDM’s long march and resignations, she stressed.
According to PPP sources, Zardari later apologised to Maryam, to which Maryam responded by saying: “It was never my intent to have you apologise. I merely considered myself a daughter to you and complained like Bakhtawar or Aseefa would.”
Addressing a press conference after the meeting of the PDM in Islamabad, JUI-F’s Fazlur Rehamn announced that the long march would be delayed due to differences between the member parties of the anti-government coalition.
“We have given them the chance and we will await their decision. Until then, the March 26 long march will be considered postponed,” Fazl said.
Rehman left the press conference abruptly following the announcement, and did not stop when Maryam called him out to take questions.
Asked whether the PDM had “ended practically”, Maryam said: “PDM is standing in front of you. […] We are also standing with each other and will cooperate.”
Meanwhile, talking about the PDM’s meeting, Nawaz told reporters in London that the long march “was set to be held on its time”, but the PPP had sought time to discuss the issue of the resignation in its Central Executive Committee (CEC) due to “reasons you already know”.
IMRAN SAYS MARCH NO THREAT:
“Let them have their wish of staging a long march… it’s no threat to our government. If the opposition is serious then it should negotiate with the government over electoral reforms in the parliament,” PM Imran said during the meeting of the federal cabinet in Islamabad.
Imran maintained that the PDM was a movement with the sole purpose of protecting the personal goals and “corruption of its leaders”. He stated that the PDM was only creating havoc within the country.
Terming the Electoral Voting Machines (EVMs) vital for a transparent election in the country, the premier said that the accusations of rigging can only be eliminated after the introduction of EVMs.