The once robust alliance between PPP and PML-N, led by Shehbaz Sharif, has begun to show signs of strain. On Saturday, both parties engaged in a heated dispute over election-related matters, exchanging accusations of political inconsistency and seeking the favour of influential entities.
Tensions flared as PPP and PML-N entered a spirited verbal exchange, accusing each other of reneging on previous positions and courting support from powerful quarters.
They downplayed each other’s political slogans and held each other accountable for perceived performance shortcomings. PPP criticized PML-N leaders as successors to the military dictator Zia-ul-Haq, while PML-N countered by stating, “Bhutto is not dead.”
During a news conference in Lahore, PPP leader Nadeem Afzal Chan indirectly criticized PML-N for “hiding behind institutions.” He pointed out that the party, once the champion of the slogan “respect the vote,” had changed its stance and should avoid such tactics.
Emphasizing PPP’s steadfast commitment to its motto, Chan highlighted the contrast with PML-N’s departure from “respect the vote.”
The growing differences between PPP and PML-N, particularly regarding the timing of general elections, have become evident. Last week, PPP Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto Zardari called for a “level playing field,” expressing concern that a certain party seemed to possess information about the election schedule despite its uncertainty.
“There is currently a perceived disparity in the level playing field, favouring some parties but not all, and I strongly object to this,” he stated.
While PPP advocates for prompt elections, PML-N insists on completing constituency delimitation before holding the polls. This process could potentially extend the election timeline beyond the constitutionally mandated 90-day period following the lower house’s dissolution on August 9.
During the press conference, Chan expressed the PPP’s desire for elections but voiced concerns about a situation reminiscent of the Islami Jamhoori Ittehad (IJI), a political alliance formed to thwart Benazir Bhutto’s PPP during the 1988 polls.
He stressed the importance of a level playing field, which entails providing all parties with an equal opportunity to participate in the electoral competition.
He questioned, “How many visits were made to Thar, Sehwan Sharif, Khairpur, and other cities during your time in power?” This query arose in response to reported plans by PML-N leaders to conduct poll campaigns in Sindh.
Kundi expressed concern in his statement about the statements made by their former coalition partners and urged against prematurely souring their relationship.
Later, PML-N leader Hanif Abbasi, accompanied by Chaudhry Tanvir, held a news conference in the federal capital to address the allegations levelled against their party by PPP representatives. Abbasi clarified, “We never stated that we would contest elections in alliance with the PPP or form a coalition with anyone.” He emphasized that the previous coalition government should not be misconstrued as an electoral alliance.
Highlighting the perceived lack of offerings from the PPP, Abbasi remarked, “Beyond the legacy of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, it appears the party has little else to present. It’s crucial to remember that Bhutto is no longer with us.”
In response, PPP leader Hassan Murtaza challenged Abbasi to a debate and characterized PML-N leaders as “political descendants” of the military dictator Zia-ul-Haq, suggesting that their strong opposition to Bhutto is rooted in inherited animosity.
Murtaza argued, “Those who visit Zia’s grave naturally harbour hostility towards Bhutto.” He accused the PML-N of having a historical tendency to accommodate dictators while confronting politicians, a trait he claimed was ingrained in their party’s DNA. Defending Bhutto’s legacy passionately, he asserted, “Bhutto Shaheed lives on and will endure.”
Murtaza also commented on Nawaz Sharif’s reliance on Bhutto during challenging times, underscoring that genuine leadership should extend beyond infrastructure development projects.