Lahore: President Asif Ali Zardari will tomorrow embark on a week-long tour of Punjab, Pakistan`s most populous province and a citadel of the opposition PML-N, to send out a message to his detractors that he has not been confined by his problems to the presidency in Islamabad.
However, PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif and his brother,
Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, will both be out of
Pakistan by the time Zardari arrives in Punjab on Wednesday.
The Sharif brothers have been avoiding meeting
Zardari, mainly because he reneged on several promises,
including a pledge to give up his sweeping powers.
Former premier Nawaz Sharif has gone to China for the
treatment of his wife while Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif is
in Turkey on an official visit.
He is reportedly carrying a message from the Pakistan
Army chief for the Turkey President.
Till Zardari visited the southern Sindh province last
week, there was an impression that he might not travel to
others parts of Pakistan owing to security concerns.
Zardari, who has been under attack by his detractors
since the Supreme Court struck down a law that granted him
amnesty in graft cases, has been accused of having a "bunker
mentality" for remaining ensconced in the presidency and
rarely venturing out of Islamabad.
Last year, Zardari even addressed a meeting of his
Pakistan People?s Party in Karachi by video-conferencing from
After repeated attacks by opposition parties and the
media, Zardari travelled to Sindh and delivered a series of
hard-hitting speeches in which he vowed to counter all
conspiracies against him and the government.
"President Zardari is not afraid of terrorists.
His wife did not bow to them and preferred
sacrificing her life for her country.
Zardari too will go out in public and give a message
that he stand by the masses in these testing times," said
Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer, a close aide of Zardari.
"I will ask the President to spend a few more days in
Lahore so that both Nawaz Sharif and Shahbaz Sharif extend
their stay abroad," Taseer said jokingly.
Relations between Taseer and the PML-N?s top leaders
have been strained and they have often engaged in a war of
Tension between the ruling PPP and PML-N too has
increased after PML-N leaders like Shahbaz Sharif and Chaudhry
Nisar Ali Khan, Leader of Opposition in parliament, demanded
the resignation of Zardari after the apex court scrapped the
National Reconciliation Ordinance.
"I ask President Zardari to resign along with me and
face the courts," Shahbaz Sharif said recently.
He said all beneficiaries of the NRO, which was
promulgated by former military ruler Pervez Musharraf and was
used to withdraw graft cases against over 8,000 people, should
resign and face the courts.