Zardari gives go-ahead to his party to target PML-N

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Setting aside the ruling Pakistan People’s Party’s reconciliation policy, President Asif Ali Zardari has given the go-ahead to hawks in his party to take on the Opposition PML-N’s leadership and give it a “befitting response” for targeting the PPP leadership.

Before Zardari’s rare onslaught on Sharif on Tuesday during a speech at a public gathering in Naudero, there had been a clear direction from him to PPP leaders, especially in Punjab province, to observe “caution” in targeting Sharif as the PPP wanted to take all political forces along with it.

In Tuesday’s speech, Zardari launched a blistering attack on Sharif, calling him a “maulvi” (cleric) who is helping to strengthen extremists and following the politics of late military ruler Zia-ul-Haq.

He also accused Sharif of trying to pit the PPP against the Army. “Nawaz Sharif’s blatant criticism of President Zardari during the PML-N’s election campaign in (Pakistan-occupied) Kashmir has hurt him,” a senior PPP leader said. He said Zardari had taken offence at Sharif’s personal attacks on him. “After reading the mind of Sharif, the PPP chief has finally decided to take him on and this will continue till the next general election,” said the PPP leader, who did not want to be named.

Fauzia Wahab, a close aide of the President, said that a clear dividing line between the two parties had been marked after Zardari’s speech. “The PPP is leading the liberal forces while the PML-N heading the extremist ones. The two parties with opposite ideologies cannot get along anymore,” she said.

“We have made it clear to the Sharif brothers that since they are not ready to part ways with the fundamentalists, the PPP will not offer a hand of friendship to them,” she said. Sharif represented an “extremist mindset” in Pakistani society, Wahab said.

“Nawaz Sharif is furthering the cause of extremists, which is very dangerous for the country. The country has lost thousands of its sons in the war on terror and Sharif, instead of condemning the terror acts, is targeting the army and intelligence agencies,” Wahab said.

Wahab suggested that Sharif should abandon his “Zardari-phobia” and think about the betterment of Pakistan. Wahab further said the PML-N’s wish for mid-term polls would not be fulfilled as the PPP-led government is set to complete its five-year term.
Sources said former law minister Babar Awan, Punjab governor Latif Khosa, Opposition leader in Punjab Assembly Raja Riaz and PPP’s Punjab chapter president Imtiaz Safdar Warriach will be at the forefront of a campaign criticising the Sharif brothers in the coming days.
“Zardari Sahib had admonished us for giving a tough time to the PML-N in Punjab Assembly. Now the PML-N will face the music both inside and outside the Assembly,” a PPP legislator said. On the other hand, PML-N circles believe that Zardari targeted Sharif at the wish of elements in the military who are unhappy with the PML-N chief for his open criticism of intelligence agencies. They are of the view that the “war of words” between the two parties will continue till the next general election scheduled for 2013.

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