In a surprising outburst ostensibly against the powerful security establishment, Pakistan Peoples Party Co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari said on Tuesday that politicians were better suited to running the affairs of the country. “You are here for only three years,” he said in an apparent jab at the army chief.
Addressing an oath-taking ceremony for PPP office-bearers from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, Zardari said, “I know the art of war better than anyone else.”
Organised by former MNA and PPP Fata President Akhunzada Chattan, the event was attended by PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and other prominent leaders of the former ruling party.
The PPP co-chairman expressed annoyance at the purported character-assassination campaign against him and his party. “It needs to stop! There is a limit to everything.”
Warning the establishment, which he accused of tarnishing PPP’s and his image, Zardari said, “Anyone who tries to disturb us will get a befitting response. Be wary! If this doesn’t stop now, I shall come out with a list of generals who have been accused starting from the time Pakistan came into being. And then you’ll spend the rest of your lives providing explanations.”
In an apparent reference to the power he is supposed to wield, the former president said he could bring the whole country to a standstill on a single call. “If I give one call, the whole country from Karachi to Khyber will come to a grinding halt. The lockdown will continue until I call it off.”
Zardari said he wanted to support the Pakistan Army since it was “being challenged by the neighbouring India on the borders while terrorist organisations and India’s primary foreign intelligence agency, the Research & Analysis Wing, were creating chaos within Pakistan”.
In the same vein, Zardari said he was aware who pulled the strings of banned outfits and mullahs, alluding to their alleged collusion with the establishment.
Lashing out at his political rivals, the PPP co-chairman said had he supported Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf when it arrived in Islamabad with a sit-in to topple the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government, Imran would have succeeded.
“Being a supporter of democracy, I wanted the PML-N government to complete its tenure,” he said. “It would make me happy if the incumbent administration could improve the economy.”
The ruling party will have no excuse that they were not given enough time, said Zardari. “I am not in a hurry. I can wait for the sake of democracy.”
He also lashed out at former president Pervez Musharraf, who has been in Karachi for the past several months and has been politicking from the platform of his party, the All Pakistan Muslim League. “I spent years in jail… but the commando could not spend three months in prison.”
Zardari’s speech comes days after Rangers Sindh chief Maj-Gen Bilal Akbar blamed a nexus of political leaders, civil servants and gang lords of fostering and harbouring organised crime and terrorism in Karachi, as well as amid reports that the authorities were mulling over extending the scope of the ongoing operation in Sindh, the province that the PPP has been governing since 2008.
PPP leaders have been making angry speeches in parliament after the Rangers chief’s statements, but political pundits are attaching much importance to the timing of Zardari’s speech, since the former president had been in a conciliatory mode on a number of issues after his party lost the 2013 general elections after completing their five-year tenure.