LAHORE: Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari on Saturday gave a helping hand to the beleaguered Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif at a luncheon given by Nawaz at his Jati Umrah Raiwind.
Former president Asif Zardari was accompanied by his party members Khurshid Shah, Rehman Malik, Raza Rabbani and Aitzaz Ahsan. Zardari and his aides arrived on a chopper and Nawaz received him at the door.
Sources confirmed that Zardari ensured Nawaz that his party would never support any move against democracy, parliament and the constitution.
During the meeting, Zardari and Nawaz sat close and Zardari gave a secret suggestion — that could be related to a constitutional way out of the PM’s absence from the scene and legal consequences of registration of a case into Model Town carnage, sources claimed.
Zardari also gave six advises to Nawaz: stick to democracy and constitution; show patience on the issue of resignation; employ political means to resolve PTI and PAT protests; adopt a flexible attitude and form a non-governmental parliamentary delegation to hold talks with Imran and Qadri; announce commissions to probe election riggings and Model Town carnage; stop ministers from using derogatory language against opponents.
Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif was willing to host the luncheon but the PPP leaders did not appreciate the idea. Nawaz was assisted by Ahsan Iqbal, Khawaja Asif, Khawaja Saad Rafique and Abdul Qadir Baloch.
Sources said Nawaz tried his best to urge Zardari to play a role in defusing the situation, but the PPP leadership suggested the PM to stick to the constitution and should not accept any unconstitutional demand.
Later, the PPP leaders visited Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) headquarters in Mansoora. PPP founder Zulfikar Ali Bhutto had visited JI founder Abu Ala Maududi in 1977.
The PPP leaders held talks with JI chief Sirajul Haq. Sources said Zardari laid emphasis on the dialogue as only way to resolve the political deadlock and discussed various options to defuse the crisis.
After the meeting, Sirajul Haq told reporters that they had agreed to resolve the crisis through dialogue. He also stressed on any solution for both the parties that could provide honourable way both of them.
Later, the PPP leaders also visited PML-Q leaders Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi at their residence on Zahoor Elahi Road and negotiated with them on their demands, as they are part of the Qadri’s protest.
In the meeting, the Chaudhrys also gave Dr Qadri’s message to Zardari. Interestingly, real estate business tycoon Malik Riaz also joined the meeting for only five minutes and then left.
Chaudhrys and Zardari are agreed to resolve the crisis withing the constitutional ambits, the sources said, adding that both leaderships also confirmed that they should not go against democracy.
After the meeting, Pervaiz Elahi told reporters that they had discussed with Zardari the issue of registration of FIR into Model Town carnage. He said Zardari was of the view that it was unfortunate that law would not be implemented.
The PML-Q leader said that people come and go but there should be no compromise on democracy. He, however, said that it was not democracy that was going to be derailed, but the Sharifs. He confirmed that Zardari showed his grief over the Model Town incident.
After his one-day Lahore trip, former president Zardari returned to Karachi for more consultations within the party.
Before his departure at Lahore airport, Zardari also held a press briefing about his meetings with the PML-N, JI and PML-Q leaders and said that he had urged all political forces to resolves the political deadlock through dialogue.
He said that he had empowered parliament by forming a committee headed by Raza Rabbani to transfer all the powers back to parliament from the president. He said when Benazir Bhutto had only 17 seats in the National Assembly and was encouraged to agitating against the then government; but she had refused.
To a question, he said that he had advised the PM to demonstrate patience and remain soft as much as he can and to resolve the political issue with political manners. The former president said that all political forces must support the Pakistan Army in its fight against terrorism.
About the “third umpire”, Zardari said that politicians would solve the political crises and no “third umpire” was present. He said that Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan had the right to take a stance but democracy should not be derailed.
Separately, PML-N senior leaders said the PPP has said that option of resignation of the PM was out of question.
Talking to media after Nawaz Sharif’s meeting with Asif Zardari, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar said that Zardari told Nawaz that his resignation would weaken Pakistan. Dar said that Zardari has reiterated that the PPP was committed to safeguard democracy in the country.
He said that the situation was unprecedented when all political parties join hands to save the Parliament and the democracy in the country. He said Sri Lankan and Maldives dignitaries cancelled their official visits to Pakistan, which is not a positive sign for the country.
Defence Minister Khawaja Asif said Zardari has committed that extra-constitutional demands could not be accepted. Khawaja said that it was in Pakistan’s interest that protesting parties should show maturity to end deadlock.
Railways Minister Khawaja Saad Rafique said that the PML-N and PPP had a bitter past but both parties were now mature enough to work together for strengthening the democracy.
He said PPP has put its weight in favour of democracy and playing positive role in current scenario. Rafique said that talks were underway with PTI and PAT and they were hopeful for positive outcome.