Will arch-foes – Zardari and Imran – share the stage at Qadri’s rally?

Jan 16, 2018
By Zahid Hussain Khan Workers of PPP and PTI must be baffled at the news that former President Asif Ali Zardari and Imran Khan are likely to share the stage at a protest rally in Lahore on Wednesday. The rally has been organized by the firebrand cleric and leader of Pakistan Awami Tehreek Dr Tahir ul Qadri in another bid to oust Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif from power over his alleged role in the 2014 Model Town killings. In a media statement on the eve of his rally, Dr Tahir ul Qadri said that both Zardari and Imran would be present on his fortified container during the daylong event. Hours later, PTI spokesman Fawad Chaudhry negated the impression that Imran Khan would share the stage with Asif Ali Zardari. “Both Imran Khan and Asif Ali Zardari will join the PAT’s rally but their timings will be different,” Chaudhry clarified.  He also ruled out the possibility of a political alliance between the PTI and PTI. Whether or not Imran and Zardari share the stage remains to be seen but the very idea that two opposition leaders are going to join the PAT’s protest has garnered a lot of interest on the political landscape given the hostility between two parties. The PPP had distanced itself from all the political movements led by Imran Khan and Tahir ul Qadri against the PML-N administration, fearing that a hidden might be at play to weaken democracy. The PPP was commended from pro-democracy campaigners and intelligentsia for its principled stance. In addition, Imran Khan and Asif Zardari have targeted each other in their recent rallies. Addressing a gathering at Hyderabad on Sept 19, 2017, Imran Khan called Zardari “biggest disease plaguing Sindh”. “We will take this accountability to its logical conclusion. One of them [former prime minister Nawaz Sharif] is gone now. Now we will go after Zardari and will put him in the prison,” Imran said. Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari has termed Shaukat Khanum Memorial Hospital (SKMCH) as a “cash cow” for Imran Khan. A month later, Zardari returned the favour, saying that Shaukat Khanum Memorial Hospital was a cash cow for the PTI chief. “SKMH’s public funds/donations are being used by the PTI Chairman for the welfare of his party and family,” he said. Zardari went on to allege that the women in PTI were all victims of the infamous ‘MeToo’ campaign—a global campaign highlighting the widespread problem of sexual harassment against women. The question arises what are the factors that have forced the two parties to become bedfellows.  The question might seem complex but answer is very simple. Despite the dismissal of Nawaz Sharif owing to the Panama Papers ruling, the ruling PML-N continues to enjoy relentless popularity among the electorate. In the most recent by-elections of Lahore and Chakwal, both PTI and PPP received embarrassing thrashing from the ruling PML-N. Kulsoom Nawaz, the wife of Nawaz Sharif, was easily elected in the by-election of NA-120, Lahore despite her inability to lead the campaign due to health issues. While PTI managed to maintain its 2013 vote, PPP got lesser votes than the new entrants - Tehreek-e-Labaik and JuD. On Jan 14, The Economist, a London-based weekly magazine, reported that the PML-N was heading to secure another term after the 2018 general elections. A Gallup survey has revealed that Nawaz Sharif remains the country’s most popular Pakistani politician despite his disqualification. A source privy to the development told SAMAA that there was a growing realization of the fact that PML-N may secure a second term without a future PPP-PTI alliance.

Pakistan

PTI

Qadri

PPP

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