Recent covert contacts between Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) leadership are bearing fruit, as the two parties are once again coming close to each other with a view to thwarting any possible threat to the democratic process in the country, high-level sources privy to the development told Business Recorder.
The two status quo parties are once again invoking the Charter of Democracy (CoD), with reconciliation its key component, following a series of meetings between Finance Minister Ishaq Dar with the leader of the opposition in National Assembly Syed Khursheed Shah and Senator Rehman Malik. PPP co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari, according to sources, has played a pivotal role in the recent development, and summoned Chief Minister Sindh Qaim Ali Shah and Rehman Malik for consultations in Dubai. Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and Farooq Naek are already in Dubai as is Ishaq Dar.
Sources revealed to Business Recorder that Ishaq Dar, after paving the way with Zardari’s lieutenants in Pakistan, is expected to hold a crucial meeting with PPP co-chairman to discuss the “threats” to the democratic process from a “third force” and the need to redevelop a working relationship between the two parties in the light of Charter of Democracy.
Sources revealed that PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, who had adopted an aggressive policy towards the government especially on the Panama leaks as well as during the recent election campaign in Azad Jammu and Kashmir, has been taken into confidence by his father on parallel talks with the government that had been ongoing for sometime.
PPP sources maintain that Dar has been in contact with PPP leaders in the parliament with a view to settling all outstanding issues between the two parties and reaching an understanding for a co-operative relationship on various issues especially those related to the democratic process.
The extension of special powers to Rangers enabling them to keep suspects for 90 days in detention lapsed on 19 July and the PPP leadership has described its concerns with respect to the exercise of Rangers’ powers outside Karachi as well as arrests of its loyalists on corruption charges as beyond the mandate of the Rangers given by the Sindh government.
Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan stated this week that the federal government would provide a legal cover to Rangers’ operations in Karachi as any halt to the operation would negatively impact on the Karachi operation and demoralize the civilian paramilitary forces.
It is unclear what Ishaq Dar has been tasked to promise the PPP leadership in this regard, and whether Chaudhary Nisar’s commitment to provide a legal cover to the Rangers operations in Karachi has been overridden by the Prime Minister, but analysts claim that the leverage of PML-N in this regard is limited.
The PPP, if it reaches an understanding with the government, will deal a major blow to the joint opposition so far pressing the government to accept their terms of reference (ToRs) on the Panama Papers.
As it is the opposition is fractured as Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) and Awami National Party (ANP) have already expressed differences with respect to a possible move against the government in the event that the government refuses to accept the opposition’s ToRs.
When contacted PTI spokesman Naeemul Haq said that PTI has an understanding with the PPP on a ‘joint strategy’ on the Panama leaks. “We’re still committed to that understanding and let’s see what happens next,” he said while commenting on the recent contacts between PPP and PML-N.
PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and opposition leader Khursheed Shah have recently given strong worded statements in support of the democratic system against any possible unconstitutional move in the country which is at variance with PTI chairman Imran Khan’s statement that “people will distribute sweets, if Turkey-like military coup happens in Pakistan”.
When contacted PPP spokesperson Senator Farhatullah Babar refused to confirm any meeting between Asif Ali Zardari and Ishaq Dar, but added that the doors of reconciliations are open for all parties. “But it does not mean that we will not talk on the issues…we’ve a clear stance on Panama leaks and we are pursuing that,” he added.
He said that PPP has already made it crystal clear that it will not allow derailment of the democratic process but added that there was no visible threat to the democratic government in the country at present.
Both the PPP and PML-N had a Charter of Democracy (CoD) signed by the slain PPP chairperson Benazir Bhutto and PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif while in exile in London on May 14, 2006 to work together for the continuation of democratic process in the country.