Shahbaz contacts PM to defuse tension
ISLAMABAD: The main opposition Pakistan Muslim League-N on Monday took yet another somersault when one of its senior officials, Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, disclosed he had contacted Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani three days ago to ease political tensions between the two sides.
This was the first formal contact by the PML-N with President Asif Zardari’s ruling Pakistan People’s Party since Nawaz Sharif’s announcement about severing of all contacts with the government in Islamabad and sacking of PPP ministers from the PML-N-led Punjab cabinet.
Though details of what transpired between Shahbaz Sharif and Mr Gilani were not known, the fact that the two leaders discussed the possibility of cooperation and other related political issues was also confirmed by the prime minister during his brief chat with media in Islamabad. Mr Gilani told journalists that he was all for cooperation between the two sides and would seriously consider all suggestions put forward by the chief minister.
Tension between the PML-N and PPP touched new heights last week after Nawaz Sharif’s announcement that his party could not work with the PPP and that the latter’s ministers were being chucked out from the Punjab government. This led to a war of words between the middle-ranking members of the two parties, with clear indications that it may soon turn into a bitter political war in Punjab.
The situation was further aggravated with some hard-hitting statements by a couple of PPP members from Sindh, who threatened the PML-N against doing politics in their province. Some PML-N members also issued highly provocative statements and threatened to take the conflict to the next level with the support of the so-called Unification Bloc of PML-Q, which had recently defected to support the PML’s ‘N’ faction.
However, better sense prevailed over the past few days when the two sides unofficially decided to avoid issuing controversial statements against each other. And with Shahbaz Sharif’s latest move, and that too after the PML-N leader Nawaz Sharif had gone abroad, a new wave of optimism gripped Lahore and Islamabad. It was not clear if the Punjab chief minister’s move had the blessings of Nawaz Sharif, but most political observers were of the view that he could not have taken such a major step without consulting the party leader, who also happens to be his elder brother.
Speaking to media representatives in Lahore, Shahbaz Sharif said he had contacted Prime Minister Gilani on the instructions of PML-N chief Mian Nawaz Sharif. He also said during his telephonic talk he advised Prime Minister Gilani to call a conference to devise solutions to problems confronting the country.
He said a conference with such an objective should not only be attended by the leadership of all political parties, but the military and the judiciary should also be invited to participate so that their input could be used when working out strategies to resolve national issues.
While talking to media, the prime minister was non-committal about such a suggestion, but said he was willing to consider all options for a greater consensus, thus indicating that fresh efforts could be made to contact all major stakeholders for discussing some of the crucial issues facing the country, the most important being the economic crisis.