Former Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf – who served a short stint in office when Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gillani was disqualified for contempt of court – made a rare public appearance in Mardan, offering his condolences to Pakistan Peoples’ Party (PPP) Senator Khanzada Khan on the demise of his brother-in-law. Surprising as his sudden appearance in the public eye is, more surprising were the statements that he was making, at least they must be to the party leadership.

The former Prime Minister met with reporters and called for extending tenure of special military courts to root out militancy and extremism from the country. He claimed that extending the powers of court is in the “national interest”, and considering that this is a popular opinion these days it might as well be, but coming from the mouth of a senior PPP leader, a former Prime Minister no less, these statements sound out of place.

Surely Mr Raja Pervaiz Ashraf does not need reminding that his party is defined by its opposition to military dictatorships and military over-extension of power – according to itself most of all. The former prime minister must be aware that the PPP vociferously opposed the formation of the military courts in the parliament, and only conceded after making sure that a two-year deadline was included. In every rally and speech, we are reminded by the PPP how it has made countless sacrifices fighting for the civilian right to rule, and here we find the former Prime Minister of that party actively arguing to keep the military in the judiciary role.

Of course, Mr Ashraf has been out of politics for a while now, but remembering the basic tenets of one’s political party is not a difficult job. After all, Mr Ashraf used to know them so well; a few short years ago when he was charged for allegedly receiving kickbacks in January 2013, he told the media that there was “no doubt the country’s powerful military and Supreme Court were working together to topple the government.”

Now that the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) is in power, the equation has changed. Mr Ashraf spent a significant portion of his speech criticising the failures of the civilian government, and that is perhaps why his unconditional praise of the military seems so out of place.