Zardari vows to end Sharif’s hold on country’s power politics

Published February 6, 2018
LAHORE: Pakistan Peoples Party jiyalas cheer on as former president Asif Ali Zardari addresses a crowd in the city’s historic Mochi Gate ground on Monday.—Arif Ali/White Star
LAHORE: Pakistan Peoples Party jiyalas cheer on as former president Asif Ali Zardari addresses a crowd in the city’s historic Mochi Gate ground on Monday.—Arif Ali/White Star

LAHORE: Pakistan Peoples Party co-chairperson Asif Ali Zardari on Monday vowed to end former prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s sway on the country’s power politics, and urged PPP jiyalas to shore up preparations for the coming general elections.

Addressing a large gathering at Lahore’s historic Mochi Gate ground, Mr Zardari said that his children — Aseefa and Bilawal — would contest the upcoming general elections along with him, and assured the PPP workers that this time around, the electoral process would be fair.

“Nawaz Sharif is a national thief who stole our mandate in the previous polls… He follows the chaos theory, once followed by Hitler, to get hold of national resources and usurp people’s rights. We won’t forgive him this time as his ouster [from power politics] has become a need of the hour,” Mr Zardari said, amid exuberant sloganeering by PPP jiyalas.

These remarks came within hours of certain comments passed by Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif who, addressing the PPP leader, asked him to bring back the country’s wealth lying in his foreign bank accounts, otherwise, he had warned, the PML-N government would do so.

PPP leader announces he will contest upcoming election alongside Bilawal, Aseefa

The PPP managed to put up a good show in the capital of Punjab after a long time. The venue for Monday’s gathering had last hosted a PPP public meeting some 24 years ago. The ground, with a capacity of 12,000 people, was full, while many, who were unable to find space in the ground, stood attentive on the adjacent Circular Road. A 70-foot long, 24ft wide and 10ft high stage was built for the event and the participants had to pass through three walkthrough security gates.

Police authorities said that about 1,500 security personnel had been deployed at the event, which was being monitored throughout with the help of 300 cameras.

Upon his arrival at the venue, Mr Zardari was offered a traditional Punjabi turban, after which he announced that he would, along with Bilawal and Aseefa, contest the election for National Assembly seats in 2018. He went on to vow that the PPP would run the country’s affairs in a way that would make every child want to say “long live Pakistan”.

Earlier in December 2016, Bilawal and Mr Zardari had first announced their decision to contest the 2018 general elections.

Referring to the opposition’s resounding defeat in the by-elections, the PPP leader comforted his party workers by arguing that the rulers had used development funds worth billions of rupees to win the sympathies of voters.

But in the general elections, he said, the facility of manipulating politics by using development funds would be removed and, in the light of recently passed Elections Act, everyone would get a level-playing field. He appeared confident saying that the PPP would secure a good number of seats in all provinces.

Taking credit for CPEC and Iran gas pipeline projects, the former president said Mr Sharif had considered the historic agreement with China only as a loan-taking facility.

Referring to the ex-premier’s criticism of the judiciary for letting former dictator Pervez Musharraf flee the country, Mr Zardari claimed that the PML-N had never opposed the former dictator’s departure from Pakistan.

He chided Mr Sharif for not saying a word on the Kashmir issue during his public meeting in Muzaffarabad earlier in the day, and alleged that Gen Musharraf was ready to strike a deal with India on Kashmir but the army had not approved the plan.

Earlier, Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Syed Khursheed Shah, former prime ministers Yousuf Raza Gilani and Raja Pervez Ashraf, Aitzaz Ahsan, Qamar Zaman Kaira, Faisal Saleh and Chaudhry Manzoor addressed the gathering.

Mr Ashraf said the PPP was set to win many seats in the Senate polls. He alleged that the PML-N government had betrayed the cause of Kashmir as Mr Sharif had not said a single word on the issue at the UN session. The country’s incumbent rulers are loyal to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and enemies of Kashmiris, he alleged.

Published in Dawn, February 6th, 2018

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