ISLAMABAD: It appears to be more than just a coincidence that a top government functionary boarded the same Islamabad-London flight as opposition bigwigs at a time when the ruling camp is seeking the opposition’s support in dealing with a serious crisis.
The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s top leadership has recently been trying to reach out to the Pakistan People’s Party’s higher command in a bid to win their support.
The approaches were also discussed during a top-level party huddle at Punjab House on Monday, with PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif at the head of the table, The Express Tribune has learnt.
Sharif landed in Islamabad from Lahore on Monday evening in connection with his scheduled appearance before an accountability court on Tuesday (today). Apart from other issues discussed during the meeting— including pending references against the Sharif family in the accountability court and internal party differences between powerful lobbies—the issue of proposed dialogue with the PPP was deliberated upon in the meeting, sources said.
PML-N insiders said the PPP leadership’s apparent reluctance to respond to PML-N’s efforts to strike some kind of ‘reconciliation’ is part of the opposition party’s strategy to draw concessions from the ruling lot for Sindh in general and Karachi in particular.
PML-N to turn up the heat on PPP
Reportedly, the PPP leadership wants the immediate removal of Inspector General of Sindh Police AD Khawaja, but the federal government is reluctant to entertain the Sindh government’s longstanding demand due to the fact that Khawaja has been widely credited with the restoration of peace in Karachi in collaboration with Sindh Rangers and other security agencies.
Sources said PPP supremo Asif Ali Zardari is ‘irked’ by the fact that his repeated efforts to have Khawaja removed from his position have borne no fruit. “This is the time for them to try and cash in on the situation,” a PML-N source summed up the PPP’s policy to extract mileage from the ruling camp.
In addition, the PPP is also seeking federal government’s support in corruption cases against senior party leaders and Zardari confidantes Sharjeel Memon and Dr Asim. In return, the PPP would be ready to support the ruling camp at the centre in tackling its problems. The PPP leadership also wants lion’s share in the development funds for its Sindh MNAs ahead of the 2018 general elections.
Sources said that Sharif, in Monday’s party huddle, was briefed that some PML-N leaders reached out to second and third tier PPP leadership in their personal capacity, but there has been no response from the PPP’s top bosses yet.
Sharif is of the view that the PML-N needs the support of a mainstream political party, which is why it is trying to woo the PPP.
24th Amendment: PML-N shores up PPP’s crucial support in NA
“Our present allies comprise smaller political groups, none of which can be termed ‘mainstream’. We need a major political force to be with us in this hour of need and if that force happens to be PPP, nothing like it,” a PML-N lawmaker said requesting anonymity.
The PML-N leaders including PM Abbasi are making personal efforts to get a positive response from Zardari and his aides, but none has been forthcoming.
“Give and take is how the political process works. The ice will melt soon,” the source said.
On Friday, PM Abbasi, PPP Vice President Sherry Rehman, and PPP Punjab President Qamar Zaman Kaira boarded the same flight from Islamabad to London. Kaira later told the media that it was ‘just a coincidence’ and did not have any political dimensions. However, reports are rife that Abbasi landed in London to interact with PPP leaders, away from the Pakistani media’s eye.
PPP-PTI unity sets off alarm bells for PML-N
Contrary to reports suggesting that PML-N’s top lot would review its plans for the next general elections, a close aide of PM Abbasi termed it too early to discuss electoral prospects. He confirmed that the huddle mainly discussed efforts to win PPP support and ironing out internal party differences for which Sharif decided to “lead from the front” and spend more time in Pakistan.
The leader of the Opposition in National Assembly and senior PPP stalwart Khursheed Shah said no contact has been made between PPP and PML-N. He added, however, that “this is an old trait of PML-N. They only seek our support when they are in trouble and give a cold shoulder when the problems are over. This time, they should deal with their mess all by themselves.”