ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has directed his close aides to stop the Pakistan People’s Party from calling for a national government – or launching a campaign - as other opposition parties could quickly jump on the bandwagon, The Nation learnt yesterday.

Senior PPP leader Senator Aitzaz Ahsan had earlier floated the idea of national government to drag the country out of crisis. He proposed a joint session of the parliament to evolve a consensus on the national government claiming Prime Minister Sharif’s team had ‘failed to deliver’. Ahsan, who is the leader of the opposition in the Senate, accused the cabinet members of protecting the terrorists while going hard at the political opponents.

Yesterday, PPP chief Bilawal Bhutto Zardari condemned the ‘highhandedness’ of Punjab administration to ‘snatch’ mandate of PPP in South Punjab.

He warned the government that other options would be open for the PPP if its mandate was not accepted. Bilawal reacted after talking to PPP South Punjab President Makhdoom Ahmed Mehmood who complained the police, administration and Punjab government had launched a revenge campaign against the party. He claimed the elected chairmen and representatives of the PPP in local elections were being victimised.

“Bilawal Bhutto Zardari took strong notice of the intimidation… and exhorted the workers and leaders to stand up like rock against the PML-N strong-arm tactics,” said a statement issued by the PPP. “Repeating the 90s politics will be a big mistake. The government should desist from such moves otherwise, its own mandate may be put to questions,” the PPP chief added.

Also yesterday, Prime Minister Sharif chaired a meeting here which discussed the overall security, political and economic situation of the country.

The previous day, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan denounced the PPP for its criticism of the federal government over the National Action Plan.

Hours after Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan’s news conference, Maula Bux Chandio, Sindh Information Advisor, accused him of telling lies and singling out the PPP. The call for the national government was first made by Tahirul Qadri’s Pakistan Awami Tehrik and soon All Pakistan Muslim League chief Pervez Musharraf supported the demand.

But Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf – the most enthusiastic to see the back of the government - outrightly rejected the idea terming it “unconstitutional”. Senior PTI leader Arif Alvi said the party wanted the rule of law adding an unconstitutional demand can be supported. “The formation of a national government is not in our constitution,” he explained.

The PPP hitherto has been against the national government but the statement from a key leader raised many eyebrows.

A senior government official said Prime Minister Sharif had asked the close aides to contact PPP leaders and make sure the national government demand is not converted into a campaign.

“The PM understands the PPP is a big party and if other smaller parties join it, there could be a big movement. He wants to close this chapter before it is opened,” he told The Nation.

He said highest-level contacts between the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) and the PPP could take time but the communication had not completely collapsed.

“There have been some contacts since Aitzaz Ahsan’s statement and we have asked them not to make it a party policy to make unconstitutional demands,” he added.

A senior PPP leader told The Nation, the demand for national government was the personal opinion of Aitzaz Ahsan and not the party’s policy.

“We are definitely protesting against the government’s attitude towards the PPP but we are not aiming to destabilise the government. We are for democracy but dictatorial aptitude is unacceptable even in a democratic set-up,” he added.

Last day, PPP Vice President Senator Sherry Rehman said this was not the democracy for which Benazir Bhutto gave her life.

She urged the government to target the terrorists instead of victimising the political opponents.