NEW YORK, Sept 30: People’s Party Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has said that despite all challenges Pakistan is making its first constitutional and peaceful transfer of power from a democratic government to a new democratic government due to a strong and democratic set-up put in place by the PPP.
Addressing an international convention of the PPP here late on Saturday, he said Pakistan had been transformed from a dictatorship into a democracy and “we have restored the supremacy of parliament”.
Mr Bilawal said the PPP would always stand by the overseas Pakistanis and was committed to ensuring the right to vote to them in the elections. “We are committed to the idea that dual-nationals should be able to participate in all our country’s civic matters and that includes the right to contest elections.”
He said that no unelected people had the right to question the loyalty of anyone elected by the people of Pakistan. Therefore, expatriate Pakistanis should be given the right to vote and contest the general elections.
Appreciating the contribution of the Pakistanis living abroad, Mr Bilawal said he could understand their feelings as he was forced to live in exile along with his mother Benazir Bhutto.
Highlighting the achievements of the democratic government, he said: “We have devolved power to the provinces, thus decentralising government and bringing it closer to the people.”
Commenting on the Balochistan situation, the PPP leader said: “With every missing person and with every dead body, we realise a Baloch family loses hope in Pakistan.”
“We have stopped living in denial, and we cannot let the province bleed the way it has and taken historic measures to address the underlying causes of the challenges in Balochistan.”
He said: “Where Musharraf treated the people of Balochistan as enemies of the state we see them as an integral part of our state of Pakistan.”—APP
Masood Haider and Anwar Iqbal add: Mr Bilawal launched the PPP’s election campaign at the convention, underlining the government’s achievements and promising reforms for reviving an ailing economy.
One major achievement that he highlighted – “the first constitutional and peaceful transfer of power from a democratic government to a new democratic government” – is acknowledged by PPP’s rivals as well.
The passion with which he eulogised the government’s response to a recent blasphemous video indicated that the party also planned to use this as a major achievement during the election campaign.
“I join the unanimous chorus of condemnation of a vile, hateful, blasphemous video that has unfortunately incited violence across the Muslim world,” he said.
His father – President Asif Ali Zardari – raised this issue at the UN General Assembly last week and later Pakistan presented a joint declaration at the OIC foreign ministers conference in New York as well. The OIC endorsed the Pakistani move but no other Muslim nation shared its enthusiasm on the issue.
At the PPP convention, speakers likened it to “the great anti-Ahmadiya amendment of 1974”, pledging to the nation that the party would continue to serve Islam and Muslims.
Mr Bilawal also claimed credit for gains his party had little to do with.
“It is under this PPP government that overseas remittances have increased from $6 billion to almost $13 billion,” he said, but failed to mention that it were US-sponsored restrictions on money transfers that made this possible.
Mr Bilawal, who came to the meeting with his sister Bakhtawar Bhutto Zardari and Ambassador Sherry Rehman, also experienced the traditional PPP ‘jiyala’ culture of shouting, pushing and kicking and had to be escorted by security men when the jiyalas mobbed him.
The jiyalas also fought each other with great zest and turned their attention to journalists when there was nobody else to fight with.
Mr Bilawal’s polished manners, British accent and his politeness contrasted sharply with the crowd’s attitude, indicating that he needed greater exposure to the jiyala culture.
He read from a well-written speech, better suited for a think-tank audience in Washington than a ‘jiyala jalsa’.
He reminded the crowd, which pushed women aside when the dinner was served, that the PPP-led parliament had passed more legislation for women than all past parliaments combined.
“This has been the only government not to hold people in prison for their political allegiances,” said Mr Bilawal as rival PPP factions suggested calling police for getting their rivals arrested.
Mr Bilawal also said that the landmark Benazir Income Support Programme had provided food, clothing and shelter to people, a claim obviously aimed at voters in Pakistan than at an audience which depends on the US economy – and not on a safety net – to earn a living. The Waseela-i-Haq Programme was helping the poorest of the poor to improve their lives and providing jobs.
The programme has improved the health of the poor, and has brought education to them.
The PPP leader said despite external shocks that led to fiscal deficit, Pakistan managed to have an annual GDP growth rate of almost four per cent, a claim rejected in a recent IMF report.
“Our exports crossed an historic benchmark of $25 billion this year. Our agricultural policy has transformed Pakistan from a wheat importer to a wheat exporter,” he said.
The PPP government has more than halved inflation from its peak at 25 per cent to 11 per cent, another claim rejected by the IMF.
“The Karachi Stock Exchange is the 4th best performing in the world. Not in South Asia, not in Asia, not in the East, but in the world,” he said.
Mr Bilawal said the PPP government opposed drone strikes and would fight this war on its own terms, not at the dictation of a foreign power. The US media, however, claimed that Pakistan had allowed the US to continue the drone strikes.