ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari has stressed the need for signing of a new charter of democracy (CoD) by all democratic political parties aimed at ensuring the protection of fundamental and constitutional rights of the citizens.

“I have no issue in having a broader discussion among all democratic parties, not just the PPP and the PML-N, on a new form of CoD,” the young PPP chairman said at a news conference here on Tuesday before leaving for Lalamusa via GT Road.

Read: GDA causes a ripple in Sindh, but unlikely to make waves

He said his party did not have a “positive or good experience” as far as the implementation of the CoD, signed between former prime ministers Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif in London in May 2006, was concerned as “we found that the other side was not genuine”.

“Our experience with both Nawaz Sharif and Shahbaz Sharif was not positive [on the issue of CoD],” he declared.

Says GDA not a political threat to PPP in Sindh

The 36-point CoD was signed by the two former prime ministers and arch-rivals of the past while living in exile during the military regime of Gen Pervez Musharraf.

Through the document, the two parties had admitted their past mistakes of dislodging each other’s governments with the support of the establishment and vowed to respect each other’s mandate in future. They had also agreed on a number of constitutional reforms and steps to improve functioning of various institutions, including the military, judiciary and National Accountability Bureau (NAB).

But soon after the formation of the PPP government in 2008 following the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, the two parties had started accusing each other of violating the CoD. They had agreed to abolish NAB but failed to do so during their respective tenures.

Mr Bilawal-Zardari said there was a need for a broad-based consensus among all parties on the “principles within the CoD, 18th Amendment and democracy as whole to agree that they would not compromise on the basic constitutional rights, freedom of press, freedom of political association and freedom of speech”.

In reply to a question, he said the Grand Democratic Alliance (GDA) — which has fielded its candidates against the PPP in rural Sindh — was not a “political threat” to his party. He said there were three or four former chief ministers in the alliance, but they had no programme to offer to the people of Sindh. He alleged that the PPP was not being provided a level playing field in Sindh, but said the party would emerge as victorious after the July 25 elections.

Terming the GDA an “alliance of puppets”, Mr Bilawal-Zardari said the PPP had in the past too faced similar puppets alliances, like the Islami Jamhoori Ittehad, and it was again facing the same situation. He said that despite security threats, he would continue his election campaign as he had come out on roads to “fulfil the promise of my mother Benazir Bhutto and to save Pakistan”.

The PPP chairman said that earlier he had to restrict his election campaign in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in the wake of terrorist attacks. He claimed that his party was getting a good public response all over the country. He said it was his first elections, but he knew that a long journey was ahead of him.

“I have come out with a political mission to get the country rid of the present crisis,” he said, adding that in the past too, the PPP had brought the country out of the crisis after coming into power.

In response to a question, Mr Bilawal-Zardari said the PPP would decide after the elections as to who would be its nominee for the office of the prime minister.

He condemned the use of abusive language in the politics, particularly by the PML-N and the PTI.

Published in Dawn, July 18th, 2018

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