ISLAMABAD: Serious differences have emerged between Senator Aitzaz Ahsan and top leadership of the Pakistan People’s Party over the strategy and mode of attack on Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
The senator’s insistence on joining Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s upcoming street agitation left former president Asif Ali Zardari and party chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari deeply annoyed.
Sources told Daily Times the senator wanted his party to share the ‘container’ with PTI Chairman Imran Khan after Eid, in a bid to dislodge or paralyse the Nawaz government. The PPP top command wants to exhaust the legal option first, and thinks it unwise to let Mr Khan steal the show.
Therefore, former Punjab governor Sardar Latif Khosa was directed by the top leadership to file a disqualification reference against the prime minister, Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif and MNAs Hamza Shahbaz and Capt (Retd) Safdar in the Election Commission of Pakistan.
Mr Khosa, who is a senior Supreme Court lawyer, and his team prepared the 1,000-page reference. Senator Aitzaz Ahsan, who was generally considered party’s legal brain, was completely ignored in the process. Senator Ahsan is a veteran politician who joined the PPP in early 1970s. However, he was expelled from the party after 1977 general elections. He then joined the Tehrik-e-Istiqlal of Air Marshal (Retd) Asghar Khan. He rejoined the PPP after Benazir Bhutto returned to Pakistan in 1986.
In 2007, when General Pervez Musharraf forced then Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry to resign, it was Mr Ahsan who spearheaded the lawyers’ movement against the will and wish of his political leader – Ms Bhutto. He earned a great deal of fame and political mileage through the movement for the restoration of judges. He even drove the deposed chief justice all the way from Islamabad to Lahore in his personal SUV.
Because of his solo flight and desire to stay in the limelight, Ms Bhutto had distanced herself from him. However, after her demise he managed to regain his position in the ranks of the PPP. It was reportedly Mr Ahsan who had pressurised then President Asif Ali Zardari to restore the deposed judges. He warned him of consequences if the judges were not restored.
Initially, President Zardari refused to accept that pressure, prompting Mr Ahsan to harshly criticise the party leadership in private gatherings. The top leadership then decided to suspend basic party membership of Mr Ahsan.
When a long march for the restoration of judges was underway, Mr Ahsan was at the forefront to get the deposed chief justice restored. And after the restoration of all deposed judges, Mr Ahsan tried to take the entire credit leaving other democratic leaders flabbergasted.
Sources said that President Zardari was not on speaking terms with Mr Ahsan after the judges were restored. However, he once again managed to woo the president and assured him of his unquestioned loyalty in future. He was then rewarded with a Senate seat. But he once again revolted against party leadership’s stance when the fiasco of Panama leaks surfaced a few months ago. Now he is giving the impression that the joint opposition may be on the same container after Eid on the issue of the deadlock on the Terms of Reference. On the other hand, both senior and junior Zardari are not in a mood to take the matter to the point of no return.
The PML-N has complained to the PPP leadership that Senator Ahsan is pursuing his personal agenda at the meetings of the ToRs committee and leading the matter towards a disaster.
Former president Zardari conveyed several messages to Senator Ahsan that limits should not be crossed, but he did not take these messages into account.
As a result, Zardari ignored him and assigned the important task of preparation of a reference against the prime minister and others to Khosa.
It is pertinent to mention here that Zardari posed confidence in Dr Babar Awan to reopen the Zulfikar Ali Bhutto case because Senator Ahsan did not have good relations with the PPP leadership in 2009.
Political circles are predicting that this time Senator Ahsan might be seen on the container with Imran Khan in his personal capacity, leaving the PPP behind.