ISLAMABAD - Former president Asif Ali Zardari on Friday questioned Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz supreme leader and former prime minister Nawaz Sharif's patriotism.

Addressing a news conference here along with Senator Sherry Rehman and others, Zardari said: “Nawaz Sharif should make it clear whether he is with Pakistan. He should be clear. He should not play a double game. At present, he is playing a double game.” He called Sharif a ‘hypocrite’ who did not stand by his words. “Nawaz Sharif says one thing one day, takes a U-turn the other day,” he said.

The former president said that Pakistan’s neighbour was very cunning who was taking advantage of Sharif’s ‘foolish acts’.

Zardari, who is also the Pakistan People’s Party Co-chairman, said that his party did not support the establishment but the people. “We expect that these (general) elections would not be stolen by the ROs (returning officers),” he said.

He took credit for the merger of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. “This was a dream of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and his daughter Benazir Bhutto. We were unable to implement the merger during our time (2008-2013) in the office because of the double game Sharif played,” he said.

Earlier in the day, the Constitution Amendment Bill, 2018 for the merger of Fata into KP was approved in the Senate. The Jamiat Ulema-e Islami and the Pashtunkhwa Milli Awami Party opposed the bill and staged a walkout. The constitutional amendment was passed by the National Assembly on May 24 with a two-thirds majority.

According to the amendment, the number of seats in KP Assembly will increase to 145 to from 124. Fata will have 16 general seats, four seats for women and one seat for non-Muslims in KP Assembly. Elections to these seats will be held within one-year after the general election 2018 – expected in July.

The constitution amendment also envisages amendments in article 246 and repeals article 247 which place the tribal areas under the command and control of the president. Zardari said those who had opposed the merger were on an agenda. “They are scared that their monopoly would end,” he said. He rejected the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s claim that it was being targeted by the judiciary and other state intuitions.

He appreciated the state institutions and criticized Sharif’s constant tirades against the judiciary and the military. “It is only Nawaz Sharif who has a problem with the institutions. For the first time, perhaps, the institutions are completely neutral,” he claimed.

The former president also rejected the impression that the PML-N was ousted from the Senate’s chairman election race in March. “It is being stated that we are being barred from the Senate’s elections. Nawaz Sharif’s party is very much present in the election,” he said.

He alleged that bureaucracy in Punjab was being asked to revolt against the state institutions.  Responding to a question, he said that the government had spent billions of rupees in Lodhran to win the recently-held by-elections. “They announced power and gas projects in Lodhran to win the election,” he said.

Referring to reports about Pakistan being placed on Financial Action Task Force terror-financing watch-list, Zardari denounced Khawaja Asif as an ‘unsuitable’ foreign minister who could not defend the country.

To another question, he said: “The PML-N has only given funds to Lahore. I went to Tonsa Sharif recently and I saw the condition of its roads. Even the inner city of Lahore is in a shambles. They have only spent money on railroads and roads that lead to their (Sharifs’) own lands.”