ISLAMABAD: Cracks appear in PPP

By Tariq Butt

A “mini revolt” brewing in the PPP for months has started bursting out as a deeply frustrated couple — Safdar Abbasi and Naheed Khan — has launched a well-orchestrated attack on the leadership with several party leaders sharing their stand but falling short of coming out in the open.

Senior PPP leaders privately agree to what Abbasi and Naheed Khan are saying. Their assertions are no doubt a huge embarrassment for President Asif Ali Zardari, they say, adding that these were adding to Zardari’s woes, already compounded by the public unrest and Nawaz Sharif’s campaign.

“I repeatedly stated on the PPP platform behind closed doors what I am now saying publicly, but no measures have been taken to rectify the situation,” Abbasi told The News. Naheed Khan said she was not applying for the PPP ticket for the forthcoming Senate election as she has made it clear that she wants no official or party position because she was proud of being an ordinary worker of Benazir Bhutto and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.

Barrister Aitzaz Ahsan shares the couple’s views, but doesn’t go that far in slamming the PPP leadership. His attack is always measured, controlled and calculated as he doesn’t want to cross the red line. Senator Enver Baig’s position is also the same, but he withholds his opinion in public. Yousuf Talpur’s position is no different. Makhdoom Amin Fahim, who used to be with this faction, has been disciplined by his induction into the federal cabinet as commerce minister.

“We haven’t challenged Zardari’s leadership as the PPP co-chairman, but it is a hard fact that the gulf between the government and the people is widening at a fast pace,” Abbasi said. Naheed Khan said that if the sorry situation persisted, the consequences for the PPP would be too serious to face.

“Ministers have confined themselves to drawing rooms and there is a lack of contact between the government and the masses, which has never been the practice with our party. The PPP has always been among the people, who have been its greatest strength.”

Abbasi said restrictions on the movements of President Zardari for security reasons were justified but what was a battalion of ministers doing. “Why aren’t they going around and meeting the people, giving them the feeling that they cared for them.”

He said that the PPP was unfortunately going against the popular stands on key issues like the deposed judges’ reinstatement, implementation of the Charter of Democracy, scrapping the distortions in the Constitution etc.

“Through our assertions, we are telling the party leadership that if they remain complacent, the damage would be monumental. It would spawn political instability, which would jolt the democratic system as well,” the PPP leader said.

To a question, Naheed Khan said neither she nor Abbasi were violating the party discipline because what they were saying was in the ultimate interest of the PPP. Abbasi said he had frequently aired his views in the Central Executive Committee meetings, but no steps were taken to improve the situation.

He said he would continue to express his views publicly and it was for the party to decide about him. “It is for the party to bear us or not.” Personally speaking, Abbasi said, President Zardari has been very good to him and listens to him but there had been no implementation of what he had been saying.

Naheed Khan said she met Zardari in March last before the election of the prime minister and the president. Since then, there has been no contact with them, she said. She stated what they were saying was the voice of the people, and sooner the party leadership hears it the better it would.

Abbasi said the PPP should think about other alternatives to probe the assassination of Benazir Bhutto if the United Nations was not ready for the investigation for any reason. “If we don’t carry out the probe, public cynicism would continue to grow and there will be public backlash.”

The harsh opinion being expressed by the couple whose loyalty to the PPP as always been beyond a shred of doubt and suspicion, has been encouraging for the opposition’s campaign against the Zardari-Gilani government.

Source: The News International, 6th January 2009

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