ISLAMABAD - Pakistan People’s Party Parliamentarians chief Asif Ali Zardari has directed the party’s legislators to keep the war of words with the government within limits and avoid going too far, The Nation learnt.

The move came after Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif directed his hawks to ignore harsh PPPP statements amid rising differences between the two major political forces of the country.

The war of words intensified after Leader of the Opposition Khurshid Shah and Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali locked horns on multiple issues – especially the alleged targeting of the PPPP leaders and non-implementation of the anti-terror plan.

The PPPP believes the government was wasting its energies on victimising the political opponents and ignoring the terror attacks on schools.

The party alleges the anti-terror and anti-corruption campaigns were targeted against the smaller provinces.

Interior Minister Ch Nisar Ai Khan hit back accusing the PPPP of striking a deal with the PML-N, blaming the Leader of the Opposition of getting unfair advantages and politicking on national issues.

Khurshid Shah responded and was backed by some party leaders. Likewise, some PML-N hawks joined the interior minister in PPPP bashing.

The Opposition Leader has vowed to take the issue to the Parliament.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif intervened to stop a clash that could close the doors for reconciliation.

A senior PPPP leader told The Nation Zardari did not support the war of words to escalate beyond a point. “He has asked his men to play on the front-foot but to leave room for peace. It should not cross limits,” he said.

Zardari, a former President, is confident the government will get the message through criticism and will not force the PPPP to look to the other options as hinted by Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, he said.

“If the government does not listen to the PPPP and continues having its way, the party will be forced to decide the future strategy but in the given circumstances, Zardari wants carrot and stick policy,” the close aide of the PPPP supremo said.

The PPP, parent party of the PPPP, has a bitter past with the PML-N. During the late eighties and throughout the nineties, the two parties were at each other’s throats.

The PPP and the PML-N took turns to rule from 1988 to 1999 but none succeeded in completing its mandated five-year tenure.

After the PPP government was controversially sent home in 1990 – just 18 months after being elected - the PML-N formed the government as part of conservative alliance Islami Jamhoori Ittehad from 1990 to 1993. The government was dismissed by the then President Ghulam Ishaq Khan.

The PPP won the subsequent polls and another mid-term election brought the PML-N to power again in 1997. This government also was short-lived as then Army chief Pervez Musharraf seized power in 1999.

The two parties joined hands against Pervez Musharraf’s regime in 2006 and in 2008, the PML-N briefly became a coalition partner of the PPP-P – later becoming the main Opposition party.

However, the two parties did not engage in nineties-like confrontation and this continued even after the PML-N won the 2013 polls. Asif Ali Zardari received a respectful send-off from the Presidency after the first civilian-to-civilian transfer of power.

However, Zardari announced to end the politics of reconciliation as he accused the government of victimising the PPPP leaders and damaging the image of the party.

The Rangers operation in Karachi is also seen by the PPPP as targeted against the party’s Sindh government and its leaders.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had tasked Interior Minister Nisar Ali Khan to settle the Rangers issue with Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah but he asked him to wait as the PPPP and the interior minister seemed poles apart on the anti-terror and anti-corruption strategies. Khurshid Shah has even demanded removal of the interior minister.

Another PPPP leader said Zardari was not against talks to solve the differences but was awaiting some positive gestures by the government.

“At this point he expects the prime minister to play a constructive role for the sake of democracy. The PPPP leadership is not for confrontation unless the government leaves no other option,” he added.

He said Zardari does not want to destabilise the elected government but supports the democratic right to protest against victimisation and wrong policies of the government.