Bilawal yet to choose constituency

Updated 28 Nov 2016


ISLAMABAD: Although Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari has made up his mind to contest by-election for a National Assembly seat, he has yet to decide about the constituency and timing for making formal announcement of the decision.

Sources told Dawn that the party leadership had left it to Mr Bhutto-Zardari himself to decide if he wanted to contest election from the constituency of his grandmother (Nusrat Bhutto) or mother (Benazir Bhutto).

According to them, the 28-year-old PPP chairman has the choice between NA-204 and NA-207, the two constituencies in his ancestral town of Larkana. Both are considered traditional seats of the Bhutto family as NA-204 had been retained by Nusrat Bhutto and NA-207 by Benazir Bhutto in the past elections.

Presently, Ayaz Soomro is representing the PPP from NA-204 and Faryal Talpur, the sister of Asif Ali Zardari, won the NA-207 seat in the 2013 general elections.

The sources said the party leadership had acquired resignation in advance from Mr Soomro so that it could be submitted to the National Assembly speaker in case Mr Bilawal decided to contest the election from NA-204.

Despite repeated attempts, Mr Soomro could not be contacted for comments.

Most PPP leaders believe that their leader might opt for the NA-204 seat since he would not like to ask his aunt to vacate her seat. However, a senior leader and office-bearer of the PPP claimed that Ms Talpur was ready to vacate her seat if her nephew desired so.

Moreover, the sources said, the option of fielding Mr Bhutto-Zardari from another traditional seat of the party from Karachi’s Lyari area was also available. But the party leadership might not take the risk of putting the PPP chairman to the test due to ongoing fast changing political situation in the country’s largest city.

According to the sources, the decision to bring Mr Bhutto-Zardari to parliament through a by-election or a general election, whichever is earlier, was made at a party meeting held at Zardari House in Islamabad last week. But the leadership did not make any formal announcement in this regard since Mr Bhutto-Zardari had sought more time to consider the option.

The sources said he was yet to have a detailed discussion with his father Asif Zardari on the matter and the PPP would make a formal announcement after getting green signal from the young chairman.

They said the announcement could be made on Nov 30 when the party would be celebrating its founding day in Lahore or on the occasion of the ninth death anniversary of Benazir Bhutto in Garhi Khuda Bakhsh on Dec 27. Leader of Opposition in the National Assembly Syed Khurshid Shah while talking to reporters in Sukkur recently had said he was ready to leave his office for the chairman.

When contacted, PPP spokesperson Farhatullah Babar said it were the party members who had insisted that Mr Bhutto-Zardari should come into parliament. He, however, said the final decision had been left entirely to Mr Bilawal. “The PPP believes that 2017 could be the election year and in that case, Mr Bhutto-Zardari would not have to get any seat vacated for entering parliament.” Replying to a question, Mr Babar said he could not say when the decision would be announced. He, however, did not rule out the possibility of such an announcement on Nov 30 or Dec 27.

Mr Bhutto-Zardari had become eligible to contest elections in Sept 2013 — four months after the elections were held in the country.

He had not led the PPP’s election campaign despite calls from the party candidates, particularly in Punjab, to address their rallies, triggering rumours that he had developed differences with his father and aunt over running the party affairs. The PPP quarters concerned denied such reports.

Mr Bhutto-Zardari has completed his graduation (honours) in Contemporary History and International Politics from the Oxford University.

Published in Dawn November 28th, 2016