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PM Nawaz, Zardari flex 'democratic muscle'

17 April, 2014

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ISLAMABAD: Former president Asif Ali Zardari met Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Wednesday in a move to show solidarity and harmony amongst the political forces in the wake of challenges and pressures the incumbent government is facing, especially due to the ongoing high treason trial of former military ruler Pervez Musharraf.

Although the PML-N government seems bent on playing down talk of simmering tensions with the military leadership, but senior PML-N leaders admitted on condition of anonymity that it was a move initiated by the government quarters to show political muscle to those who were "sending" or "orchestrating" stress signals in the wake of disagreements between the PML-N government and the military leadership over the ongoing high treason trial of former military ruler Pervez Musharraf.

Sensing it was high time to make a pro-democracy move similar to the one made by then opposition leader Nawaz Sharif during the memogate scandal, Asif Zardari-led PPP reciprocated well. "We will be standing firm with the democratic dispensation in case there is a threat from undemocratic forces," veteran PPP leader Raza Rabbani told media after an hour-long delegation-level meeting with Prime Minister Nawaz and his team. "The prime minister has told us that the talk about government-military tensions over the Musharraf trial issue is not a serious matter," Rabbani informed.

"Any extra-constitutional measure against democracy will put a question mark on the very existence of the country," the PPP leader cautioned. The PPP delegation also got a strong hint from the premier during the meeting that he has no intentions to remove any of his key ministers, as being demanded by some quarters, sources said. The two leaders also had a one-on-one meeting after the delegation-level talks, officials said.

National Assembly opposition leader Khurshid Shah, Senator Raza Rabbani, and Sindh Chief Minister's Finance Adviser Murad Ali Shah were part of Zardari's entourage. Prime Minister Nawaz led a delegation comprising Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, Science and Technology Minister Zahid Hamid (who acts as the de facto law minister) and bureaucrat Fawad Hassan Fawad. The delegates later on enjoyed a sumptuous lunch at the Prime Minister's House, a typical reflection of the Sharif hospitality. Election slogans apart, the official statement had some promises for the masses too.

"It was agreed that the people of Pakistan have huge expectations of their elected representatives and it is now imperative that the elected representatives live up to their expectations with first priority to needs of the common man, which includes employment, health, education and shelter. The prime minister expressed his desire to work with all political forces for achieving these objectives," the statement said. Sources in the Prime Minister's House, however, insisted that the delegation-level talks were not a typical photo-op, as there was a heavy agenda.

The leaders had a pleasant chitchat and had a relaxed body language, even when the camera glitter had ended. The PML-N government was looking for political support from the PPP to face the current political and security challenges. It got most of what it was looking for. The PPP reiterated its support for the ongoing government initiative to hold direct peace talks with the Pakistani Taliban, but with a pinch of salt. "We honour decisions of the last APC on talks with Taliban groups, but reserve the right to point out mistakes during the process," Raza Rabbani said after the meeting.


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