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KARACHI: Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari would most likely make his parliamentary debut with a protest against alleged rigging in 2018 general elections as his party on Thursday made a strategy for the National Assembly’s first session expected on Aug 13 and the role of its chief, which “should be most visible” in it.

“Today’s meeting primarily discussed election of [National Assembly] speaker and strategy for future parliamentary politics,” PPP leader Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar told Dawn. “We have already announced our candidate [Khursheed Shah] for the office of speaker and we discussed today our strategy for election to the key slot. The party’s role on the opposition benches also came under discussion.”

Senior party leaders Dawn talked to after the meeting presided over by Mr Bhutto-Zardari at Bilawal House said the chance for election of Khursheed Shah was slim keeping in view the number of joint opposition members at the centre.

Bilawal to launch his parliamentary career with protest against ‘rigging’

The PPP chairman also reviewed the performance of a seven-member committee comprising two former prime ministers and other senior party leaders, which was set up to engage political parties to discuss the way forward.

Mr Khokhar replied in the affirmative when asked about the expected launch of Mr Bhutto-Zardari’s parliamentary career with a strong protest on the floor as leader of one of the key opposition parties.

“We have already rejected the results and put our reservations on record over the way these elections were held,” he said. “The chairman himself took up the issue and raised serious questions about that but we decided in principle to go to parliament to pursue our case. So definitely, led by the chairman we would raise our voice in parliament and lodge our protest.”

He stressed the PPP’s role as a strong opposition party.

In reply to a question about the possibility of the party’s alliance with Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf as a coalition partner at the centre, he said: “not yet”.

Former senator and senior party leader Farhatullah Babar, who was a member of the seven-member committee and held meetings with different parties, including Maulana Fazlur Rehman of Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal and Awami National Party’s Asfandyar Wali in attempts to convince them to join parliament instead of staying away from the democratic process, said that the committee briefed the chairman about its performance and discussed points for the first session of the National Assembly.

“The role of the party chairman in parliament was also discussed, including strategy for the first session of the National Assembly. The matter of opposition parties’ protest [outside the Election Commi­ssion of Pakistan office] also came under discussion during the meeting,” he said.

Published in Dawn, August 10th, 2018