• Bilawal says treasury MNAs not bound to vote for govt candidates
• JUI-F chief claims disappointment visible in govt ranks
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari on Sunday acted timely to repair some cracks that had appeared in the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) by appeasing Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-F (JUI-F) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman on the issue of distribution of seats in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) for the upcoming Senate elections on March 3.
Insiders told Dawn that the JUI-F chief had some reservations over distribution of tickets in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa following which the PPP leadership held a meeting late on Saturday night and finalised candidates in consultation with Maulana Fazl.
The JUI-F chief later agreed on the final list of PDM candidates, and on Sunday Mr Bhutto-Zardari visited Maulana Fazl’s house in Islamabad to express his gratitude to him.
Accompanied by former prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, a joint PDM candidate from Islamabad, and PPP leader Farhatullah Babar, Mr Bhutto-Zardari discussed with the Maulana the Senate election strategy.
Later, at a press conference with the JUI-F chief, the PPP chairman said the PDM was ready to contest the Senate polls under both open and secret ballot modes, adding that the treasury MNAs were not bound to support the government candidates.
The PDM is contesting the Senate polls on five of the 11 seats from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
The three candidates it has fielded on the general seats are Abbas Afridi (PML-N), Hidayatullah (ANP) and one candidate from the JUI-F. Farhatullah Babar is contesting on a technocrat seat.
The development comes a day before the Supreme Court is expected to announce its decision on the presidential reference seeking the court’s guidance on holding Senate elections through open vote.
The PPP chairman said he hoped the apex court’s opinion would be “in accordance with law and the Constitution”, adding that secret ballot enjoyed “constitutional protection” whether it were elections for the Senate or the assemblies.
He said in the upcoming polls, the opposition alliance wanted to show that “even members of the parliament were not with the government but with the PDM”, expressing the hope that the opposition’s candidates would be elected with “good and surprising results”.
“[This] will give power to every movement, march and move of ours and we will be successful in our goal and mission of sending this puppet government and prime minister [back] home,” Mr Bhutto-Zardari said.
He said the PDM hoped to establish a national government which represented the people and solved their problems while institutions worked within their spheres and the parliament took decisions about the country’s future and fate.
Responding to a question about an alliance with Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P), Mr Bhutto-Zardari said he hoped the party “will be with us”.
He pointed out that MQM-P — an ally of the PTI government — had been elected from Karachi which was ‘abandoned’ by the federal government.
“We think that they are asking the government for Karachi’s rights [but] there will be more power in that demand [if raised] from the PDM or the opposition’s platform,” the PPP chairman said.
He admitted that the opposition alliance had been in contact with MQM-P as well as other members of the treasury benches, adding that they had a free vote and there was “no limitation on government MNAs or allies to support [only] the government in the Senate elections”.
Speaking on the occasion, JUI-F chief Maulana Fazl endorsed the PPP chairman’s views and said disappointment was visible in the ranks of the government. “Hopefully good results will come out,” he added.
The Maulana said the PDM’s unity in the four provinces was “good news for the nation” and the alliance would be contesting the Senate elections under a mutually agreed plan of action.
“The different parties of the PDM did not break each other’s votes as the government had hoped. We are united for the Senate elections and will achieve positive results,” he added.
The JUI-F chief clarified that the PDM was a movement and not an electoral alliance even though they “personally try not to damage each other’s votes and contest the elections together”.
He, however, said the PDM members could contest elections separately under ‘special circumstances’ — referring to the Awami National Party fielding its own candidate in the PK-63 Nowshera by-poll.
Published in Dawn, March 1st, 2021