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Interview: We are in this for the long haul: Kaira

Updated July 01, 2018

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Qamaruz Zaman Kaira doesn’t see any single party winning a majority at the 
centre on July 25.
Qamaruz Zaman Kaira doesn’t see any single party winning a majority at the centre on July 25.

THE president of Pakistan Peoples Party’s (PPP) central Punjab chapter, Qamaruz Zaman Kaira, is hopeful that his party would bounce back in the province in the July 25 election although it is going into the contest in very difficult conditions.

“We’re contesting the election in (the province) in a very difficult situation. But we have seen difficult times in the past,” he told Dawn while campaigning in his area last week. “And we are not focused on just this election. Bilawal Bhutto is a young man and we’re reorganising the party and giving a new programme that has something for everyone, every segment of society. We’re in this for the long haul, not for one election.”

Take a look: It’s better to quit politics than to quit PPP: Kaira

He said he “…cannot put a number on the seats we will win. I don’t want to exaggerate. Nor do I want to understate. Let me say that we will perform much better than we have done in the recent past despite difficulties. PPP will emerge as a ‘relevant’ party in the country after the July poll.”

In 2013, the PPP was virtually wiped out in Punjab, winning just two national and seven provincial seats. The party’s ticket is considered unsafe and unreliable for the 2018 elections. So much so that many of its stalwarts from Punjab, who served as cabinet ministers in the centre and in the province, have already left it to either join Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf or contest as independents.

If politics of electables is appreciated, and voters keep returning them to the assemblies and encourage lotacracy, how will the conditions in the country change? Qamaruz Zaman Kaira

Speaking about those who have left the PPP for safer tickets, Mr Kaira said it’s time voters should decide if they want to return such people, the so-called electable candidates, who keep switching parties just to win their seats and stay closer to the power corridors to the assemblies. “If politics of electables is appreciated, and voters keep returning them to the assemblies and encourage lotacracy, how will the conditions in the country change?” he asked.

Mr Kaira spoke at length about the achievements of the PPP during its previous term in power. “We amended the constitution to strengthen the federation, discourage negative nationalism and empower provinces. We gave provinces more financial powers under the NFC award, empowered parliament by transferring powers that rested with the president to it, ensured food security in the country, increased exports to $25.5bn, created jobs, invested in education and public healthcare, fought a war along with the military against terrorism and so on. It is a long list.”

Why didn’t voters elect the PPP in 2013 then? “Many factors had combined against us in the run-up to the election. It was because a well-organised drive was launched in media to undermine our achievements. Former chief justice Iftikhar Chaudhry was a big part of that anti-PPP campaign and he dragged us into courts on trumped-up charges. No one ever was sentenced because no charge could be proved against us but still it damaged PPP’s public image. We could not run our election campaign because of threat to the life of our leadership from militants. On top of that the 2013 polls were rigged on polling day. It was an RO (returning officers) election.”

Mr Kaira doesn’t see any single party winning a majority at the centre on July 25. “We are headed for a coalition government (at the centre) in spite of the fact that a large number of the so-called electables have been forced to shift to a particular party,” he said, in an obvious reference to the PTI, before adding, as an afterthought: “Or maybe they have joined it on their own.”

Will the PPP join the coalition if the elections throw up a split decision? “Of course, we will. We have been part of a coalition before. But forming a coalition government and running it is not an easy job,” he adds.

With the polls less than a month away, party campaigns are yet to gather momentum even though individual aspirants are trying to reach out to voters. The provincial PPP president listed a few reasons for the low-key campaign.

“Delay in finalisation of party tickets, extremely hot weather, Ramazan and Eid, etc have kept it low-key so far. On top of that, there are rumours that the polls would be delayed, creating uncertainty. But I am sure that election will be held on time,” Mr Kaira told Dawn.

He said “…a consistent campaign maligning politics and politicians has also disillusioned public. Politicians are being blamed for all the problems facing us. This has also forced many people to wonder if their vote can bring about real change in the country. By accommodating electables while distributing tickets, Imran Khan has also disappointed his supporters who had pinned high hopes on him. Now they know that PTI is into power politics and not a harbinger of real change. It has not only damaged Imran Khan but also political culture as a whole.”

Published in Dawn, July 1st, 2018