Islamabad, May 19 : Tension is reportedly brewing up between PPP Co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari and PML-N chief Shahbaz Sharif over a senior journalist Rehmat Shah Afridi, who has been behind the bars for nine years. While Zardari wants him to be freed, Shahbaz seems not prepared to relent.
Afridi is lodged in the Lahore Jail, and PML-N has formed the new government in Punjab.
Afridi, the Chief Editor of The Frontier Post, is considered a close friend on Zardari, and had in 1989 arranged three Fata votes for Benazir Bhutto when she faced a no-confidence move in the National Assembly.
Afridi's lawyers blame Nawaz Sharif for concocting a fake drug case against their client, after his "gesture" for Benazir.
According to The News, Zardari has requested Shahbaz many times to order the release of Rehmat Shah Afridi on parole but the PML-N president has repeatedly declined the request.
"I have called Shahbaz Sharif Sahib at least 10 times in the last couple of days and requested him to forget his old differences with Rehmat Shah Afridi. I asked for the release of my friend on parole, which is not difficult for the Punjab government but Shahbaz Sharif is making excuses," the paper quoted Zardari as saying.
Zardari added: "Where are the champions of the press freedom today? Rehmat Shah Afridi was arrested and booked in a fake drug smuggling case on political grounds. He spent nine years in jail just for writing the truth and now he is seriously ill but some people still want to take their revenge."
On the other hand, the PML-N has totally denied any old political rivalry with Rehmat Shah Afridi. Shahbaz Sharif has already briefed Zardari on phone on, what he claims, legal problems. He informed Zardari that Afridi was arrested in 1999 by the officers of the Pakistan Army working with the ANF and he was not arrested by the political government.
Shahbaz explained that Afridi was convicted in 2001 when Musharraf was in power. He promised Zardari that he will try his best to help the release of Afridi on parole and has directed secretary law Punjab to examine the case and inform Federal Law Minister Farooq Naek immediately.