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ISLAMABAD: Serious differences over the option of resignations from the assemblies have appeared within Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) with Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari Tuesday asking Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) self-exiled leaders – former premier Nawaz Sharif and Ishaq Dar – to return to Pakistan. The PDM’s meeting of the party heads, chaired by its President Maulana Fazlur Rehman, witnessed a heated debate between PPP co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari and PML-N vice-president Maryam Nawaz, the daughter of Nawaz Sharif, after the former urged the ex-premier to return to the country to lead the anti-government movement.

In a brief chat with reporters before he left the dias, an apparently disappointed PDM president Maulana Fazlur Rehman announced the postponement of the planned March 26 ‘long-march’, saying that nine political parties of the 10-party PDM alliance were in favour of the resignations while PPP sought time to consult its Central Executive Committee (CEC).

“The March 26 “long-march” stands postponed till PPP gives its response to the PDM, as we had an understanding that while the marchers are here [in Islamabad] the resignations would be given,” the Maulana said in a brief chat before he left the dias for other PDM leaders, including PML-N vice president Maryam Nawaz and PPP senior leader Yusuf Raza Gilani.

Speaking on the occasion, Maryam Nawaz also said: “I responded very respectfully to Zardari sahib when he stated that Mian Sahib and others should return to Pakistan”.

“With due respect, I also responded to him [Zardari] that we need our leaders alive,” she said in response to a question, adding that “no one has the right to ask Mian sahib to return to the country until his complete recovery”.

“We cannot hand Mian sahib over to the killers…the government of PTI Imran Khan. We need our leaders alive and not dead. Nawaz Sharif’s entire party stands united despite hardships…I’m Nawaz Sharif’s representative if anybody wants to speak to him [NS] he should first talk to me,” Maryam added.

She further stated to have responded “respectfully” to Zardari that Nawaz Sharif’s efforts and the days that he spent in jail were not hidden. “Mian sahib spent the “tough” days in a long jail life. He [NS] was given jail term in a fake case,” she stated, adding that despite various challenges and “threat” to his life, he decided to return to the country to face the jail.

To another query, she said she would not comment on the PPP’s future in the PDM until the party gives its response to the PDM after consulting its CEC. She also insisted that PDM stands united and “the government would have to go packing”.

Yusuf Raza Gilani said that PPP sought time from the PDM to consult its CEC on the issue of resignations which was given “unanimously”. “As our CEC earlier decided against the resignations, that’s why PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari sought time so that the CEC is once again consulted and the PDM is informed accordingly,” Gilani added.

During the meeting, sources said that Zardari, who participated via a video link, opposed the option of resigning en bloc about which rest of the opposition parties are insisting as the only solution “to send the PTI government packing.”

Zardari asked the PDM leadership to avoid taking such decisions that may cause cracks within the opposition ranks, and which might pave the way for undemocratic forces to take advantage of the situation.

Zardari asked Nawaz Sharif to return back to the country along with Ishaq Dar and lead the anti-government movement. “If we want to fight this war, Mian sahib, you need to come back to Pakistan…I am ready to fight till my last breath, but I have a different domicile [of Sindh] and you’ve the domicile of Punjab,” Zardari reportedly told Nawaz Sharif, adding that “all must be ready to go to jail”.

He also questioned PML-N leader Ishaq Dar’s self-exile in London, saying that Dar did not cast his vote in the recent Senate elections. Zardari was also quoted to have told the meeting that it was not for the first time the democratic forces are fighting against vote rigging. “When you will return to Pakistan, we will hand our resignations over to you,” Zardari further told Nawaz.

While responding, Maryam Nawaz said her father was facing threat to his life and asked Zardari if he could be able to guarantee that ‘nothing would happen to Nawaz Sharif if he returns.’ “Like you, my father is also attending the PDM meetings via a video link,” Maryam reportedly stated while further responding to Zardari.

She stated that Nawaz Sharif suffered heart attack twice while in the NAB custody and faced various inquiries “steadfastly” while in the country and opposed his return till improvement in his health.

Maryam further stated that the “entire” PML-N voted for PDM’s joint candidate Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani of PPP in the recent Senate polls.

Sources said that PPP also demanded the slot of leader of the opposition in the Senate. PPP has nominated Yusuf Raza Gilani for the slot of opposition leader in Senate.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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