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The plot thickens: Aide confirms ‘understanding’ on Musharraf ‘sendoff’

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ISLAMABAD:Former prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani’s recent disclosure of a ‘safe passage deal’ for General (retd) Pervez Musharraf has re-ignited political tensions in the country. A barrage of statements — some doubting the authenticity of the agreement and others confirming its existence — came from the PPP and the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz. On Monday, Musharraf’s camp endorsed Gilani’s revelation, breaking its silence over the issue.

HunzaNews, July 15th, 2014.

“I’ve no doubt that former prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani is telling the truth,” Maj-Gen (retd) Rashid Qureshi, a close aide to Musharraf, told The Express Tribune.

Gilani disclosed at a news conference on July 11 in Karachi that the PPP and PML-N had cut a deal with the ‘establishment’ for giving a safe passage to former president Pervez Musharraf, if he agreed to step down. He also called upon the incumbent ruling party to honour that deal.

Though Maj-Gen (retd) Rashid Qureshi backed Gilani’s version of events, he disagreed with the choice of words. “The understanding, not deal, was reached on a respectable send-off, not safe passage or safe exit [for Musharraf],” he told The Express Tribune.

Throughout the negotiations, PPP Co-Chairperson Asif Ali Zardari, PML-N chief, incumbent Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and some other politicians had been in contact with the then army chief, Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, he claimed. “They [the politicians] were not directly communicating with Musharraf,” he clarified.

Qureshi said the ‘understanding’ didn’t bind Musharraf to leave the country after stepping down. “It’s abundantly clear from the fact that Musharraf had spent several months in the country after resigning as president,” he added.

Qureshi, however, regretted that the PML-N did not honour its commitment.

Gilani’s disclosure had prompted clarifications from the government and denials from his own party – which, however, didn’t speak with one voice. PPP Information Secretary Qamar Zaman Kaira objected to the word ‘deal’ but admitted there was an ‘understanding’. He claimed that the PML-N, ANP and JUI-F were all on board.

Asked about contradictions in statements of PPP leaders, insiders pointed to the brewing differences within the party’s senior leadership, particularly the dissenting voices from those who belong to Punjab.

Former premiers Yousaf Raza Gilani and Raja Parvaiz Ashraf are the PPP’s stalwarts from Punjab along with Nazar Muhammad Gondal. And, according to sources, the three politicians are not happy with the party’s senior leadership for ignoring them.

A recent meeting between former interior minister and PPP leader Rehman Malik and NA Speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq spurred rumours that the PPP could join the federal government. “This added fuel to the fire as neither Gilani nor Ashraf and Gondal were consulted [before the meeting],” insiders told The Express Tribune.

The mounting pressure on the government from PTI chief Imran Khan and PAT leader Tahirul Qadri lent credence to such rumours.

Prime Minister’s special adviser on national affairs has a different story to tell.

“I know that Asif Zardari had called on Nawaz Sharif along with several other leaders and said they all wanted a parliamentary endorsement for the steps taken by Musharraf on November 3, 2007,” Irfan Siddiqui told The Express Tribune.

He recalled that Zardari had even said that “I [Zardari] have given a commitment to the stakeholders.” Siddiqui, however, left the word ‘stakeholders’ open-ended. “[However] Nawaz Sharif said it in plain words that he was not part of any deal, and hence would not endorse the unconstitutional steps of Musharraf,” Siddiqui recalled. “It all ended there and then.”

According to Siddiqui, Nawaz had said on the floor of the National Assembly that Musharraf’s case would be dealt with in accordance with law and the constitution.

History denies Gilani’s claims, Siddiqui said, adding that “even if there was some understanding to give Musharraf a safe passage it would be with PPP’s own leadership”. “There is neither any mention of giving Musharraf a safe passage nor according parliamentary approval to his unconstitutional steps in any written accord between Asif Zardari and Nawaz Sharif,” he added.

He said the PML-N had made it clear to Zardari that it would not be responsible for any commitments the PPP had made with Musharraf.

Recalling the agreement between the PPP and the PML-N over the impeachment of Musharraf, Siddiqui said the PML-N had offered the PPP support on three terms: “1.) All sacked judges, including then chief justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, would be reinstated within 24 hours of Musharraf’s departure; 2.) both the parties would take a decision with a consensus on a new president in case there was 17th Amendment; 3.) and in case 17th Amendment was no more effective, the PPP could nominate its own presidential candidate.”

Express Tribune

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