Zardari’s Arrest: Imran, Backers Haven’t Done Themselves A Service Here
Murtaza Solangi analyses the post-Zardari arrest political scenario of Pakistan in this article. “We shall see trouble inside and outside of the parliament”, he argues.
Finally former President Asif Ali Zardari has been arrested after Islamabad High Court rejected the extension of his bail before arrest. The rumours about his arrest had been rife since last year and he was getting bail before arrest from Islamabad High Court throughout this period.
The arrest comes on the eve of the budget 2019-20. The party intends to challenge the IHC decision and seek another bail from the Supreme Court. Besides, the opposition is seeking the production orders for the former President, now an MNA.
Regardless of the merits of the case, the fact remains that the same NAB is investigating many other politicians of the ruling coalition while currently all of them remain out of the jail. This reinforces the accusation by the PPP and the PML-N that NAB continues to be an arm of the government to achieve political objectives.
This gets more credence after the much talked about “interview” of the NAB Chairman to Javed Chaudhry in which he had reportedly said that PTI government wouldn’t be able to survive arrests of its representatives and those of its allies.
Asif Zardari had left Pakistan after a steamy speech on June 16, 2015 in which he challenged the all-powerful establishment. He did adopt a reconciliatory tone towards the establishment during his exile though and his policy of rapprochement with the establishment continued till the installation of the Imran Khan administration. This included the period of dislodging of PML-N government in Balochistan, Senate elections, election for the post of Chairman and Deputy Chairman Senate, General Election 2018 in July, election for the leader of the house and the President.
After all chances of accommodation by the PTI were rejected, the PPP was finally forced to quit the reconciliation efforts as the investigations against the former President and his sister Faryal Talpur ended up in filing of references by NAB and transfer of the cases from Sindh to Rawalpindi.
Asif Ali Zardari since then has been vocal, demanding the removal of Imran Khan government. An Iftar Dinner during Ramzan jointly hosted by Asif Ali Zardari and Bilawal Bhutto Zardari was attended by leaders of all opposition parties, Maryam Nawaz Sharif included.
Pakistan’s political climate is quite charged on the eve of the arrest of the former President as the economy takes a nosedive, with a 937-point decline in the stock market on Monday. The opposition parties are about to hold another All Parties Conference hosted by Moulana Fazl ur-Rehman. The budget to be presented on Tuesday will most likely introduce new taxes worth hundreds of billions of rupees. A new front against the judiciary has been opened as the Supreme Judicial Council holds its hearing on Friday, June 14, against well-respected Justice Qazi Faez Isa. And the FATF is to review the implementation of the suggested actions next week.
One thing is clear: The policy of accommodation by Shehbaz Sharif and Asif Zardari has not provided them or their families any relief.
The arrest of Asif Zardari will strengthen the grip of Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and the party’s old guard on PPP while the PML-N leadership has effectively been transferred to Maryam Nawaz Sharif already.
It is true that the PPP does not have effective mass organisation in its old bastion Punjab anymore and is effective only in Sindh but given its partnership with the PML-N in Punjab and possible new allies in Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the chances of a destabilising and debilitating campaign during the economic meltdown are certainly there.
It is clear that the aftermath of the arrest of Asif Zardari will not help Imran Khan and his backers. We shall see trouble inside and outside of the parliament. This may be the time when Asif Zardari agrees to a parliamentary punch by removing Sadiq Sanjrani from the Chairmanship of Senate.