Pakistan political row over opposition army criticism

Controverial former president sparks political row after openly accusing powerful army of interference in politics

Pakistan political row over opposition army criticism

World Bulletin / News Desk 

Pakistan's political scene has been fired up after an unusually scathing outburst against the country's powerful army by former president Asif Ali Zardari.

Zardari, the co-chairman of the opposition Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), accused the army on Tuesday of "acting beyond its authority" by intervening in politics and trying to undermining him and his party.

The outburst led to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif cancelling a previously-scheduled meeting with Zardari, with Sharif's spokesman saying the comments encouraged instability in Pakistan.

“[Zardari] feels that the noose is tightening around him. That’s why he has reacted in such an unprecedented manner,” said Talat Hussein, an Islamabad-based political analyst. “This was not a typical Zardari style but the recent actions against his supporters and aides have forced him to do that."

Zardari, who served as president from 2008 to 2013, has long been linked to alleged corruption scandals, leading to his opponents labeling him "Mr 10 percent." This persistent shroud has even meant that many PPP insiders blame him for the party's decline, which saw it voted out of office in the 2013 general election and lose its stronghold in northeastern Punjab.

Many believe the simultaneous crackdown will unite the province’s two largest parties.

“In my opinion, the PPP and the MQM will forge an alliance against the Rangers," said Fawwad Chaudhry, another Islamabad-based political analyst. “It is unfortunate that these two parties are not likely to unite for any principle but to cover up their corruption and malpractice.”

The local daily Dawn newspaper wrote in an editorial published Thursday that "the Rangers have drifted far away from the original mandate of simply fighting organized crime and militancy."

"Have the Rangers attempted to expand their role in Karachi after getting the nod from the country’s military leadership, which may have decided the time has come for a bigger military role in Karachi and Sindh generally?"

The army has, surprisingly for many, decided to remain silent on the issue despite a history of openly criticizing even the government.

“The army must be reviewing and assessing Zardari’s statement,” retired Major General Ather Abbas, a former army spokesman, told reporters. “But one thing is for sure, the army has already decided that it will not indulge in any kind of political confrontation, and will focus on the ongoing operation against terrorism.”

Güncelleme Tarihi: 18 Haziran 2015, 14:28