Sun, Dec 4, 2016 | updated 07:25 AM IST

Panama case: Zardari's PPP still indecisive and acting as 'friendly opposition' to Sharif

Updated: Nov 08, 2016 13:55 IST

Islamabad [Pakistan], Nov.8 (ANI): The opposition Pakistan People's Party (PPP) continues to remain in a state of indecision with regard to its position in Pakistan's political landscape, though it has always sought to project itself as the nation's second-largest party in terms of numbers in parliament, and portray itself as a potent opposition force.

The Express Tribune has quoted some PPP insiders, as saying that party co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari wants to change the identity of the PPP from being a " friendly opposition" to a " potent opposition" and is keen on securing political advantages emanating from the outcome of the Panama leaks saga and other issues in the run-up to the 2018 general elections.

Several PPP leaders, however, have suggested that the party is suffering from internal divisions and a difference of views on the Panama leaks case and on the accountability bill, and therefore, has effectively acted as a 'friendly' opposition in the three years since it last ruled the country.

The question doing the rounds is can the PPP position itself again as an alternative and acceptable political entity, given the ongoing tussle between the Nawaz Sharif-led ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Imran Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI)?

Keeping his cards close to his chest, Zardari is silently observing developments from outside the country, choosing not to draw any decisive lines and letting his party play in what he describes as the 'grey areas' of Pakistan's political landscape.

The public statements of its two key parliamentary office-bearers reflect this contrast.

Leader of Opposition in the National Assembly Khursheed Shah and his counterpart in Senator Aitzaz Ahsan appear to be representing two different factions, if not parties. Meanwhile, their young chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari appears suspended somewhere in between.

The PPP's stance on the Panama leaks investigations has appeared even more indecisive since the matter landed in the Supreme Court on November 1.

Publicly, the PPP is demanding that a bill it has tabled in the Senate to investigate Panama leaks be passed. The bill stipulates that investigations should start from Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his family, if not limited to his own person.

To be enacted, the bill needs to be adopted by both houses of parliament either separately or through a joint sitting. Such a development is impossible unless the ruling PML-N supports the legislation and PPP knows that very well.

Off the record conversations with senior PPP leaders reveal that the party is split on the Accountability Bill in general.

One PPP leader described the scenario as "like playing a game" when asked what apprehensions his party has about a Supreme Court judge-led commission probing the Panama leaks.

The younger PPP members, most of them hailing from Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, want the party to adopt a clear and tough line of action against the government so as to revitalise the party's presence in these provinces.

The PPP Punjab chapter had been trying to convince its leadership to join the PTI's lockdown campaign at a certain stage, but Imran Khan abruptly called it off after the Supreme Court intervention.

Another matter dominating the discourse within the PPP is Bilawal Bhutto Zardari's marriage plans.

According to the Dawn, when an enterprising reporter asked him about marriage proposals, Bilawal, breaking into an awkward smile, "I have lots of offers! I have lots of offers! But whichever girl decides to marry me, she will have to explain to both my sisters that this will be a very, very difficult task."

That's not all, Bilawal then broke into a sweat, started rubbing his eyebrows and lost coherence, and said, "I know that my sisters... lovely, lovely, beautiful, beautiful girls, I love them a lot."

He then scratched his ear, tried not to make eye contact and secretly hoped the earth would swallow him whole, and said, "But it'll be a very difficult task for the girl... But whichever girl is successful in this task, that means it's her fate and my fate [to be together]."

The conversation ends with a lot of awkward laughs and Bilawal blushing. (ANI)