LAHORE - Former Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani’s pro-Musharraf statement was in fact a deliberate move on the part of the PPP to send a message to the establishment that it was ready to play ball with it if the latter had any plan to bring a new setup in place through democratic means.

The PPP insiders have claimed that Gilani’s pro-establishment statement came following a well-thought-out decision by the party leadership also involving two of its top leaders, Asif Ali Zardari and Bilawal Bhutto.

“It was not his individual decision; rather he was asked to throw up a hint to the powers-that-be that PPP was willing to work with it to shape up the contours of any future setup it might have in mind,” they said, adding that it also had another message for the establishment that Gilani could act as go-between to negotiate terms of engagement. He would be playing the same role Amin Fahim had played during Musharraf’s rule to bring the party back to power through the NRO, they added.

The fact that Gilani issued this highly controversial statement, addressing a press conference at the party’s Sindh Media Cell, gives credence to the assertion made by certain PPP leaders that PPP’s top leadership was on board.

The ensuing contradictory statements by Zardari’s spokesperson, Farhatullah Babar and Senator Jehangir Badr, were merely meant to give the impression that PPP stood by the PML-N for the sake of democracy.

Talking to reporters in Islamabad on Sunday, the former prime minister asserted that he stood by his Friday’s statement. He also spoke of the miseries of the IDPs and urged the party men to support them. This shows that he has not been questioned about his statements by the two top party leaders.

According to political observers, the timing of Gilani’s statement is very important. It came at a time when the PTI chief is preparing to start a long march on the capital and Dr Qadri is talking of bringing a revolution in the country. His party also knows it well that the establishment is not happy with the PML-N leadership over certain issues, especially over the trial of the ex-army chief.

The PPP, as per sources, is viewing these developments with caution and is secretly planning to secure a place in any future arrangement if the present government is shown the door. But at the same time it wants to maintain a public posture that it would oppose any undemocratic move to dismantle the existing setup.

But what if the present government is removed through an in-house change which is a democratic way of having another government in place? All former allies of the PPP which include the PML-Q, ANP, MQM and JUI-F are part of the National Assembly. If the establishment creates a situation in which majority of the PML-N members leave their parent party to become part of the new setup, the PPP would have a role to play in such a scenario. The PTI could also be asked to join hands with the pro-establishment forces.

Meanwhile, it has been learnt that PPP Patron-in-Chief Bilawal Bhutto has asked the party men to stop issuing contradictory statements on what Yousuf Raza Gilani has said about giving a safe exit to Musharraf. The party head believes that the same might lead people to believe that there is rift in the party.