At daggers drawn

Former Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi has not just lost his cabinet post but apparently the support of his party. Some members of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) have launched a massive campaign against Mr Qureshi after his controversial statement about the Raymond Davis case. Mr Qureshi alleged that he was being pressurised by the US to declare Mr Davis a diplomat when he apparently did not fall into this category. Mr Qureshi does not even know why he was not offered the foreign affairs portfolio in the new cabinet when his performance was quite adequate. Reportedly, Mr Qureshi was offered the water and power ministry in the new cabinet, which he declined. According to Shah Mehmood Qureshi, he had even offered to quit as foreign minister at the January 31 meeting of the PPP’s central command “if it had problems with [his] stance on the Raymond David issue”. Thus, it is quite surprising that neither was he asked to quit back then nor has the PPP leadership given him an explanation about why they did not offer him the same position in the cabinet now. Instead, we saw a plethora of threatening statements against Mr Qureshi by some very important members of the PPP government.

Syeda Abida Hussain said that “unnecessary delay on the part of the former foreign minister to issue a statement on Raymond Davis’ case aggravated the situation”, while Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Dr Firdaus Ashiq Awan alleged that Mr Qureshi’s differences with the government started after arrest warrants for former president General (retd) Pervez Musharraf were issued in the Benazir Bhutto assassination case. PPP’s Information Secretary Fauzia Wahab said that serious disciplinary action will be taken against Mr Qureshi “for violating the party discipline and humiliating its leadership” and he has no future in the party. Former minister for water and power, Raja Pervez Ashraf, went a step further and said Mr Qureshi will meet the same fate as that of (late) Farooq Leghari. Such statements are not just akin to hitting below the belt, according to Mr Qureshi, but are damaging for the PPP as a political party. Instead of washing their dirty linen in public, the PPP should sort this matter out in private. This could be the reason why Prime Minister Gilani has forbidden the PPP members from issuing statements against Mr Qureshi in order to cool down the situation. In the past, both Hamid Saeed Kazmi and Azam Swati were asked to leave the cabinet after their public outbursts against each other.

Shah Mehmood Qureshi’s case is a bit different in some respects. He was not on very good terms with Prime Minister Gilani, who saw him as a political rival. Both Mr Qureshi and Mr Gilani hail from Multan and both of them were contenders for the post of the prime minister. On the other hand, Mr Qureshi now seems to have annoyed President Zardari as well by his inaction vis-à-vis the Raymond Davis case. Factionalism in the PPP is nothing new, especially after Benazir Bhutto’s assassination in 2007. Most of her loyalists were left out in the cold when Mr Zardari took over as the PPP’s co-chairperson. Inner-party differences occur in every political party but when these fights are made public, it means that the leadership is not adept at managing such issues. It would be wise if the PPP settles this matter internally. Otherwise the only loser to emerge from this bitterness will be none other than the PPP itself. – Daily Times