In the last fateful meeting of the party central executive committee, the old PPP guards surprisingly compared the present siege-like situation of President Asif Ali Zardari to that of late Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, who during his incarceration days was given similar sugar coated assurances about his survival by his party leaders, just as an ‘all is well and great’ report being given today by all the president’s men.
President Zardari was reportedly told point black by Nawab Yousuf Talpur that these were the similar sycophants who were nowhere to be seen when the time of trial came and ultimately their leader was hanged.
Apparently, Talpur’s bold utterances proved only a harbinger of more to come. According to sources, after a very long time some of the senior party leaders blasted the policies and failures of their own government, and much to their pleasant surprise, they found the president, also the party co-chairman, ready to listen to them uninterrupted and without giving them a put up or shut up call. Some of the senior party leaders were said to be dissatisfied with the briefing given to them on the NRO issue and the government plans to tackle it in the days to come.
Earlier, unlike the past traditions, CEC members were also asked to give approval for the long pending reshuffling of the cabinet. The CEC empowered the president to change the portfolios of the ministers but Mr Zardari hurriedly passed on these powers to PM Yousuf Raza Gilani, who might soon announce the changes in the portfolios of the ministers. One source said, MNA Sherry Rehman and Senator Raza Rabbani were likely to rejoin the cabinet.
Earlier, one inside source revealed that two members of the CEC—-Nawab Yousuf Talpur and Dr Safdar Abbasi— were said to be found wondering if the suspended CEC member Atizaz Ahsan was invited for meetings with PM and president, why he was not invited to the meeting to get his feedback. President Zardari agreed to make a decision on this issue after he obtained permission from the CEC.
Sources said the senior party leaders like Nawab Ghazanfar Gul, Nawab Yousuf Talpur, Raza Rabbani, Dr Safdar Abbasi and a senior leader from NWFP poured their hearts before President Zardari and unlike many others spoke without any reservations. Rest of the CEC members were found only offering congratulations on the victory in Gilgit-Baltistan election and praised the leadership qualities of Mr Zardari. Whoever said sycophancy was dead.
But sycophants and honourable alike, everyone was pleasantly surprised by the completely changed mood of President Zardari, who this time around, allowed them to complete their speeches and actually encouraged them to say it all. In the past, mostly members used to stay tight-lipped anticipating a shut up call from the chair, as Mr Zardari used to interrupt them without allowing them to complete their arguments.
A PPP minister in the NWFP government was said to have blasted the poor governance in the government departments and kept on asking the leadership to improve it. He was the only leader in the PPP ranks who was found seriously concerned about poor governance. But, ironically he was not taken seriously and some laughed whether he had improved governance in his own ministry to which he said he did not.
Nawab Ghazanfar Gill from Gujrat was critical in his speech. He complained about non-participation of party leaders in decision-making process. Mr Gill said he always got surprised to read stories in the media that certain decisions were taken after proper consulting with the party men. He asked the president and prime minister to tell him the names of those with whom they were consulting in the name of meeting with the senior party leaders. “Who are these party leaders? Who are advising you and guiding our party government at Islamabad, so as we can too know what sort of people were giving them such piece of advice, which had been backfired? One source quoted him as telling the PPP chairperson. Mr Gill complained that the PPP was not being run on professional grounds.
Talpur also supported Ghazanfar Gill and said they all came to know all-important decisions through the media. He was the first to ask about absence of Atizaz Ahsan.
Nawab Yousuf then turned towards PM Gilani and said since the induction of PPP government, almost daily there was a serious crisis and ministers were not performing their duties. He recounted that first it was flour shortage, then loadshedding, sugar and now gas loadshedding. He said the cabinet was not delivering at all. He also lashed out at the MQM and said the party had the track record of showing opportunism and that PPP should not have trusted it.
Dr Safdar Abbasi also supported Nawab Yousuf Talpur over issue of Atizaz Ahsan. He claimed that it was wrong to assume that everything was satisfactory so no need to worry. “I don’t see that everything is ok with our government”, he was quoted as telling Mr Zardari. Dr Safdar said he was part of the NRO when it was being given final shapes, but today the situation had developed to an extent that even he was forced to review his opinion about it. Safdar Abbasi wondered who had advised President Zardari to move the NRO in parliament. “I knew it very well before tabling of this bill, that the MQM would not vote for us and our government functionaries were unaware of their refusal,” Abbasi was quoted as saying to the president. Dr Safdar asked President Zardari to seek detailed explanation from those advisers who had advised him to table the NRO in parliament.
Raza Rabbani was unhappy over the maltreatment being meted out to party workers. He proposed that ten rooms should be allotted to ten people in the PM Secretariat, who should meet and hear the problems of PPP workers and help them, so as a message should go to the workers that party did not forget them when it came to power. He also complained that bureaucracy had blocked the return and payment of dues of sacked employees.
Upon this, President Zardari replied that hundreds of thousands of people were reinstated and now they were demanding arrears of ten years with seniority and that issue was quite difficult one. “But, he said, we were trying to resolve it.”
President and PM Gilani were also told not to be blackmailed at the hands of the MQM and the PML (Pagara) as they believed that both always acted at the behest of others so we should not trust them. It was also pointed out in the party meeting that PPP had been playing the role of opposition in the past and should not get afraid of doing the same in the current system so as the democratic and political system should continue.
Asim Yasin adds: Meanwhile, PPP Information Secretary Fauzia Wahab said that the CEC had taken strong notice of what she called a ‘vilification campaign’ against President Asif Ali Zardari. “The party has decided to forcefully defend its leadership against such malicious campaign,” she added.
She said the ‘Jewish lobby’ in 1994 had raised the issue of Agosta submarines as the owner of the French newspaper, which published a report to this effect, belonged to this lobby.
She said the meeting had decided to continue with the policy of dialogue and reconciliation in the light of the political philosophy of Shaheed Benazir Bhutto.
She said during the meeting, Ghazanfar Gul raised the issue of media attitude towards the PPP, the government and the controversy surrounding NRO.
She said Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Dr Babar Awan briefed the meeting on the constitutional and legal aspects of the issue.
Replying to a question, Fauzia Wahab said President Zardari enjoyed constitutional immunity and no court could summon him.
To another question, she said the government brought the NRO to Parliament in accordance with the verdict of the Supreme Court.
She was of the view that only those cases were quashed under the NRO on which the court had not taken any decision for the last ten years.
“Even in Europe and the United States there is a time limit to decide cases and if they are not decided in the stipulated period, they automatically stand quashed,” she added.
In reply to another question regarding Balochistan package, she said the proposed package would cover all aspects of empowerment and social and economic development of the people of the province.
About negotiations with the Baloch nationalist leaders, she said that all stakeholders are being taken on board and their recommendations are being given due importance in finalising the package.