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Zardari threatens military top brass

Fuming PPP leader wants end to 'character assassination' of party.

By Afzal Khan

Published: Thu 18 Jun 2015, 10:59 PM

Last updated: Wed 8 Jul 2015, 2:58 PM

Islamabad: Virtually throwing to winds his proverbial caution and conciliatory politics, Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) co-chairperson Asif Ali Zardari lashed out at the military establishment warning it not to target the party for character assassination or face dire consequences.

The former president even indirectly took a jab at army chief Gen. Raheel Sharif without name, reminding him that he was there only for three years “while we are going to stay here forever”. Zardari said he did not want to weaken the country’s institutions, but “they should also not try to create hurdles for politicians and overstep on what is not their domain.

He hurled many threats including exposure of misdeeds of army generals since independence, shutting the entire country from Khyber to Karachi, annihilating the establishment at a time when it is vulnerable while facing India in the east, terrorism in Balochistan and tribal areas and international isolation, “if it did not stop to drive us to the wall”.

For his broadside against security establishment, Zardari chose the occasion of oath-taking ceremony of party office-bearers from Fata here. He said the PPP was a staunch supporter of democracy, and reminded the prime minister that it was why his party backed the PML-N government to help it complete its tenure instead of siding with the PTI during its dharna (sit-in) last year and foiled the threat of re-election.

Zardari’s uncharacteristic aggression evoked immediate wide rebuff and pro-army comments, including from Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif who termed it “improper” saying it would encourage those who want to destabilise the country.

Interior Minister Nisar Ali Khan labelled the speech “uncalled for, unreasonable and insulting” designed to target the military at a time it is waging anti-terror operation. He said the PPP was facing problems of its own making and inadequacies.

With his son Bilawal also present, the grim-faced PPP co-chairperson was typically often incoherent and vague though his target unmistakably remained the security establishment. In the heat of the strong use of words, he even gave currency to hyperbole, apparently far from ground reality, spoke about his achievements like 18th Amendment and how he has been hardened by year’s of incarceration.

“Beware, beware, beware. If I am compelled to give a call I can paralyse and shut the entire country from Khyber to Karachi and it will stay so unless I order it otherwise,” he said. He went on to assert that he does not want to weaken institutions, but would smash it if his party is victimised. He suggested that the establishment separate itself from politics and not interfere in matters out of its domain.

In apparent reference to Director-General Rangers’ claim of a list of 26 politicians and bureaucrats involved in corruption, Zardari said many generals’ skeletons would pop out of the cupboard the day he released his own list. “We know how many cases are in the courts and how many generals are accomplices.” There was even a veiled threat of use of Sindh card when he recalled how he had cooled tempers in the province after the assassination of Benazir Bhutto by raising the slogan of Pakistan will live. “There is a limit to all so do not test our patience,” he said.

Amid vague references to former military ruler Gen. Parvez Musharraf and PTI chief Imran Khan, Zardari said, “We are watching the political game, political moves and waiting for the right time ... let those play whom we provided the bat and the ball.”

The provocation to the tirade was clear. In recent series of statements, speeches, Press releases top army and Rangers’ officers the performance of Sindh government came to focus. It was alleged that leading political parties and bureaucrats were involved in corruption, land-grabbing, smuggling of Iranian oil and extortion with a fabulous size of Rs230 billion. The Rangers this week seemed tightening the noose around top figures when they raided this week against land grabbers amid reports that some high profile figures may be apprehended.


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