LAHORE - On the tirade of former president and PPP Co-Chairperson Asif Ali Zardari against Pakistan Army, the PML-N government has decided to stay on the side of the army at a time when our forces are deeply engaged in routing terrorists and miscreants through the operation Zarb-e-Azb and bringing peace in Karachi.

Zardari’s remarks have created flurry and commotion in the political field to divide a line between the PPP and the PML-N which hitherto were playing friendly to plug the way of any third force in the rule as committed in the Charter of Democracy. Zardari’s statement has left many politicians indecisive on taking side, but they are staying with the army in action, which brings them close to the PML-N government.

The situation is fluid and the effect of Zardari’s words should be neutralised through mediation as the political division is not suitable for anyone, including the ruling party, say observers. They add that nasty remarks of Asif Zardari have marginalised the role of the ruling party.

The PML-N’s backing to the army operation against terrorists is a natural corollary of the APC and legislation on NAP and counter-terror strategy. But the observers say that despite this stated policy of the government, there is a feeling that a prolonged political division will not be better for the government which needs to pay full attention on counterterrorism efforts. Chances for such a situation appear bleak since Asif Ali Zardari, after receiving a lukewarm response from his past partners in the government, now is banking on his own party and the MQM which is facing a tough time at present over Dr Imran Farooq’s murder case, target killings, extortion, illegal weapons etc.

The language and the fury as well as open challenge to the army by the former president has been vehemently criticized not only within the ranks of the PML-N but also outside the party. The political circles have discerned a frustration in Zardari’s remarks and what he said seemingly not matching character of a wise politician.

What Zardari said had a background action and a report by the Rangers against the killers, extortionists, kidnappers land grabbers and peace destroyers, particularly in Karachi and generally in Sindh under the PPP rule. The report accused the political parties of Sindh of minting illegally Rs 230 billion in addition to funding terrorists through land mafia.

It was in the media reports that the governor’s rule is being mulled for Sindh to expand the scope of the Rangers’ crackdown and to make it across the board without facing any hurdles or political expediencies from the government side. This offended the Sindh government which termed the Rangers’ action beyond its mandate and also wrote to the Interior Ministry in this respect. This situation provoked Zardari who passed obnoxious remarks against the security institution of the country, while addressing his Gilgit-Biltistan party office bearers in Islamabad.

In his address, Zardari also tried to win support of the PML-N, reminding it how the PPP bailed it out in difficult times and how much it seeks continuity of democracy which depends upon the completion of five-year term of the N government. In the first instance, it sounded like an open war, but, later, the PPP leaders clarified what their leader said was with reference to the past generals and not the present ones.

In reaction, the PML-N leadership, including Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Information Minister Perviaz Rashid and Defence Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif, condemned Zardari’s remarks and termed them hazardous for the ongoing operation against the terror. The PM even refused to see Zardari after that and took the army chief into confidence when the latter was on a visit to Russia.

Though the PPP leaders stood by Zardari at the CEC meeting, he failed to muster the support of his partner parties which, at the Iftar dinner, advised him to continue with his policy of reconciliation. Asif Ali Zardari has taken MQM chief Altaf Hussain on board as both feel hurt from the Karachi operation and it appears a common cause of their unity given the current situation. Asif Zardari has also convened the party meeting in Nodero to draw line of action after the controversial statement and in other eventualities with regard to the PPP government in Sindh.

The PML-N sources say the party leadership is watching the developments closely and taking time to see what course the PPP opts for in this scenario, after which it would make any move on the political side.

They said one thing is clear that no compromise on the Karachi operation will be made which, the sources say, was launched after consensus of all and is aimed at eliminating those who had unleashed terror in the city against innocent people and traders by taking their lives and extorting money.

They said economic development of the country depends on peace in Karachi and it will be restored at all costs