ISLAMABAD - Former president Asif Ali Zardari arrived in Lahore from Dubai on Tuesday amid speculations of ‘some big political development’ as ousted premier Nawaz Sharif looked up to the Pakistan People’s Party for help.

Close aides to the PPP Co-chairman told The Nation that Zardari was not likely to meet Nawaz Sharif but telephonic contacts could not be ruled out. “There can be secret contacts and secret agreements but an open meeting is hardly possible since the PPP has already announced not to come to Nawaz Sharif’s rescue this time. Zardari has told us to prepare for general elections which indicate there could be early polls,” said a close aide to the PPP leader.

He said that Zardari’s arrival in Lahore from Dubai itself was remarkable as he normally flew to Karachi or Islamabad when coming from abroad. “Zardari is expecting some big political development. It is more that Zardari-Sharif meeting or party meetings. There is something big brewing,” he maintained.

Another PPP leader said that Sharif had contacted Zardari and sought his help but the former president had only promised to consult his party leaders on the issue.

“For the time being, the PPP is not extending any help but since Zardari has arrived in Lahore, we can expect some activity,” he added.

Last week, PPP chief Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said that he will not even pick Sharif’s telephone call after his ouster. Bilawal had said that the PPP will not protect Sharif as he had always stabbed in the back after returning to power. “This time, I will not even attend his phone call. I will not sign any new reconciliation agreement with him,” he had asserted.

Sharif was disqualified on July 28 by the Supreme Court for hiding assets. The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader later said he respected the Supreme Court’s verdict but had his reservations.

This month, Sharif left Islamabad for Lahore along with thousands of supporters on the famous Grand Trunk Road. Sharif stopped at different stations to address his loyalists.

Bilawal said that the PPP had never supported the PML-N but had stood for democracy in the previous years.

A senior PPP leader told The Nation that a Zardari-Sharif meeting at this point will send a wrong message to the party. “This will mean we are divided. The father (Zardari) does one thing and the son (Bilawal) says another. Nawaz Sharif wants support for repealing articles 62 and 63 of the Constitution which could be considered by the PPP,” he added.

The PPP leader said the protest by the Pakistan Awami Tehreek in Lahore today (August 16), the possible verdict of the Election Commission of Pakistan in the Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf’s foreign funding case – also expected on August 16 – give rise to speculations about Zardari’s return to the schedule.

“Zardari was expected to return on August 30 but he returned two weeks earlier. This activity and his return are interlinked,” he added. The PPP has been accused in the past of playing ‘friendly opposition’ as PTI chief Imran Khan confronted the PML-N-led government.

Last year, Zardari ended the reconciliation policy towards the government but still did not go as far as the PTI. Later, Bilawal said he will show the government what a “real opposition is” – hinting at changing the gears. His later speeches proved he meant business.

Bilawal’s late mother, Benazir Bhutto, and Nawaz Sharif had a bitter past where they took turns to rule the country in incomplete terms in the 1990s. They signed a charter of democracy during Pervez Musharraf’s military rule to respect each other’s mandate and protect democracy.

After Benazir Bhutto’s assassination in 2007, Zardari continued the reconciliation policy for years.

Political observers believed Zardari’s reconciliation policy damaged the party’s vote bank, resulting in a poor performance in 2013 where the PPP was confined to Sindh.

Zardari’s spokesperson Senator Farhatullah Baber told The Nation that the PPP Co-chairman would meet the party leaders during his stay in Lahore.

Zardari is also expected to travel to Kasur to express the condolence with PPP leader Chaudhry Manzoor Ahmed over his mother’s death.

Meanwhile, PPP Khyber Pakhtunkhwa President Humayun Khan has said that the political situation in the province has changed as the PTI’s ‘tall claims’ had been exposed. In a statement, Khan said that the PPP was ready to give a surprise in the province and people were coming back to the party fold.

He said Bilawal will address a public gathering in Mansehra on August 19. Khan alleged that PTI ministers in the province were corrupt to the core and PTI members provincial assembly were levelling corruption allegations against Chief Minister Pervez Khattak.

“Elections in 2013 were high-jacked but now every corruption is being exposed. Billion trees project is marred with corruption and embezzlement. The PPP will win next election,” Khan said.