Lahore: Setting aside the ruling Pakistan
People`s Party`s reconciliation policy, President Asif Ali
Zardari has given the go-ahead to hawks in his party to take
on the opposition PML-N`s leadership and give it a "befitting
response" for targeting the PPP leadership.
Before Zardari`s rare onslaught on Sharif on Tuesday
during a speech at a public gathering in Naudero, there had
been a clear direction from him to PPP leaders, especially in
Punjab province, to observe "caution" in targeting Sharif as
the PPP wanted to take all political forces along with it.
In Tuesday`s speech, Zardari launched a blistering
attack on Sharif, calling him a `maulvi` (cleric) who is
helping to strengthen extremists and following the politics of
late military ruler Zia-ul-Haq.
He also accused Sharif of trying to pit the PPP
against the Army.
"Nawaz Sharif`s blatant criticism of President Zardari
during the PML-N`s election campaign in (Pakistan-occupied)
Kashmir has hurt him," a senior PPP leader said.
He said Zardari had taken offence at Sharif`s personal
attacks on him.
"After reading the mind of Sharif, the PPP chief has
finally decided to take him on and this will continue till the
next general election," said the PPP leader, who did not want
to be named.
Fauzia Wahab, a close aide of the President, said that a clear dividing line between the two parties had been
marked after Zardari`s speech.
"The PPP is leading the liberal forces while the PML-N
heading the extremist ones. The two parties with opposite
ideologies cannot get along anymore," she said.
"We have made it clear to the Sharif brothers that
since they are not ready to part ways with the
fundamentalists, the PPP will not offer a hand of friendship
to them," she said.
Sharif represented an "extremist mindset" in Pakistani
society, Wahab said.
"Nawaz Sharif is furthering the cause of extremists,
which is very dangerous for the country. The country has lost
thousands of its sons in the war on terror and Sharif, instead
of condemning the terror acts, is targeting the army and
intelligence agencies," Wahab said.
Wahab suggested that Sharif should abandon his
"Zardari-phobia" and think about the betterment of Pakistan.
Wahab further said the PML-N`s wish for mid-term polls
would not be fulfilled as the PPP-led government is set to
complete its five-year term.
Sources said former Law Minister Babar Awan, Punjab
Governor Latif Khosa, Opposition Leader in Punjab Assembly
Raja Riaz and PPP`s Punjab chapter president Imtiaz Safdar
Warriach will be at the forefront of a campaign criticising
the Sharif brothers in the coming days.
"Zardari Sahib had admonished us for giving a tough
time to the PML-N in Punjab Assembly. Now the PML-N will face
the music both inside and outside the assembly," a PPP
On the other hand, PML-N circles believe that Zardari
targeted Sharif at the wish of elements in the military who
are unhappy with the PML-N chief for his open criticism of
They are of the view that the "war of words" between
the two parties will continue till the next general election
scheduled for 2013.