ISLAMABAD - In a show of political unity, the opposition PPP has put its weight behind the ruling PML-N for upholding the supremacy of law and safeguarding the democratic system.
The two main political forces’ message of unity came with a one-on-one meeting between Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and former president Asif Ali Zardari at PM House on Wednesday.
The meeting was followed by delegation-level consultations between the PPP and host Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz. Interior Minister Ch Nisar Ali Khan and Defence Minister Khwaja Asif were conspicuous by absence.
Premier Nawaz himself received Zardari, who is Pakistan People’s Party de facto chief, and his aides on their arrival at PM House by a helicopter. The PM guided them to the sitting room where the two sides discussed a host of issues, assuring backing to each other’s viewpoint on crucial matters.
The meeting between the two political giants comes at a time when the civilian government is reportedly at odds with the military establishment particularly over issues of high treason case against Gen (r) Pervez Musharraf and policy differences over the Taliban talks.
Talking to the media after the meeting, PPP Senator Mian Raza Rabbani said Asif Zardari’s message was loud and clear that in case of any difficult time on the incumbent political dispensation, his party would stand by Nawaz Sharif for safeguarding the system.
He said the meeting was aimed at giving a message to undemocratic forces that political forces are united for upholding the supremacy of democratic order and would not let anyone undermine it. He said both leaders have agreed to strengthen democratic system in the country and would jointly fight for democracy if it faces a tough time ahead.
According to a handout issued by Prime Minister’s office, Asif Ali Zardari and Nawaz Sharif showed a strong resolve to work for the prosperity and economic development of Pakistan. They expressed commitment to respect and strengthen all institutions to address enormous challenges faced by Pakistan including those in areas of security, health, education and poverty.
During the delegation level meeting, Premier Nawaz was assisted by Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, Federal Minister for Science and Technology Zahid Hamid and Fawad Hassan Fawad while Zardari was accompanied by Leader of Opposition Syed Khursheed Shah, Senator Rabbani and Adviser to Sindh CM on Finance Murad Ali Shah.
Responding to a question Raza Rabbani said both the leaders discussed the issues of national importance and it was decided that where both parties have divergent viewpoint, consensus would be evolved through dialogue and discussion.
Sources said that following the discussion on Protection of Pakistan (Amended) Bill 2014 the prime minister directed Zahid Hamid, who is looking after the constitutional and legal matters of the government, to have a separate meeting with PPP legal experts including Raza Rabbani to evolve a consensus on the bill before tabling it in the Senate for approval.
Sources said that the PM also directed his legal team to have input on the controversial bill from other Parliamentary parties so that the legislation would be done through consensus. It was further decided that Opposition’s input on all the future legislations would be given due consideration and political process would be taken forward with the spirit of consensus and reconciliation.
Fawad Hassan Fawad, who is also government team member for negotiations with Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan, gave a detailed briefing to ex-president Zardari and his team mates on the progress on this front. Premier Nawaz assured Zardari that the government would definitely take up the release of Ali Musa Gilani and Shahbaz Taseer with militants. He said the government was holding the talks with TTP from a position of strength and would not accept any unconstitutional or irrational demands.
Sources in the government confirmed that both the sides were of unanimous view that targeted operation in Karachi would continue without any political interference with the aim to bring back peace and tranquillity to the restive port city. Sources said that the PM praised PPP government in Sindh for extending complete support in making the targeted operation effective.
PPP sources informed that Zardari took up the financial matters relating to the Sindh government and the outstanding dues of the province against the federal government following the devolution of various ministries and departments under the 18th Amendment. Premier Nawaz directed the finance minister to have a separate meeting with Murad Ali Shah to sort out these issues, sources added.
Though the case of Gen (r) Musharraf did not figure in the delegation level meeting, sources close to PPP confirmed that Asif Zardari, in the one-on-one meeting, assured complete support to government on the issue and letting the law take its course. When asked for his comment on the current civil-military tiff, Rabbani did not see any rift between the institutions over the former military ruler’s trial and simply said that law would take its course.
“Both the parties have given great scarifies for democracy in the country and wanted to strengthen this system,” Rabbani said. When specifically asked whether treason trial against Musharraf came up for discussion, he said overall every single important issue came under discussion between the PM and the former president. He, however, said his party’s point of view is clear on the Musharraf issue; he need not repeat it now.
Rabbani said Zardari has conveyed concerns of the PPP and other opposition parties on the Protection of Pakistan Bill and the prime minister assured him to review the issue to make applicable legislation to curb terrorism in the country. He said Nawaz and Zardari also discussed the overall security situation.
According to the media release issued by the PM Office, both leaders jointly reviewed the political situation in the country and expressed satisfaction on the progress of political institutions. The decision to respect the mandate of people in different provinces was appreciated and continued cooperation between federation and the provinces was lauded.
The prime minister apprised the ex-president and his team about his development vision and the strategy with reference to China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and apprised them that the projects in the province of Sindh have been given high priority. A number of projects in energy and infrastructure sectors in the Sindh province have been included for execution on a priority basis during the first three years. The prime minister urged that implementation mechanism in Sindh might be upgraded.
It was agreed that the people of Pakistan have great expectations from their elected representatives and it is now imperative that the elected representatives live up to their expectations by prioritising basic needs of the common man, which include employment, health, education and shelter. The prime minister expressed his desire to work with all political forces for achieving these objectives.