PPP chairperson Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari on Sunday expressed optimism that the candidate fielded by the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) for the Senate chairperson election will emerge victorious because the opposition parties will together challenge the PTI-led ruling coalition.
He was speaking to reporters after calling on PML-N leader Hamza Shehbaz at the latter's Model Town residence in Lahore.
During their meeting, the two exchanged views on the existing political situation, while Bilawal congratulated Hamza, the opposition leader in the Punjab Assembly, on the victory of PDM candidate Yousuf Raza Gilani in the March 3 Senate elections, according to the PPP.
Asked how the PDM would ensure its senators vote for the opposition candidate and not defect as had happened during the vote on a no-confidence motion moved by the opposition against Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani in 2019, Bilawal said lessons had been learnt from the past.
"We have learnt quite a bit from the last [Senate] chairman election; if we hadn't, we would have lost the National Assembly secret ballot election," he said, referring to Gilani's victory on the coveted Senate seat from Islamabad. "We won there and it is our full effort that we challenge [the government] together so the win is of the PDM."
Elaborating, Bilawal said contacts were being made with the senators elected in the March 3 polls to request them to vote for Gilani in the Senate chairman election. He added that Gilani himself had already requested most of the senators to vote for him.
The PPP chairman noted that the Chaudhry brothers had been allies of the PPP government during Gilani's tenure as the prime minister, saying "I will go to their house myself and ask for [their] votes."
After staging an upset in the Senate elections, the opposition parties have managed to retain their majority in the upper house of parliament and are now hopeful of getting the top offices of chairman and deputy chairman for which elections through secret balloting will be held on March 12.
Bilawal termed yesterday's vote of confidence as the prime minister's own "internal fear" and" a joke". He alleged that rigging had occurred in the trust vote too and claimed that according to people present in the session on behalf of the opposition, there were discrepancies between the MNAs present and the number of votes the government was claiming.
"There has been criticism about the numbers from the people present there [...] this is a controversy which definitely needs to be investigated," the PPP leader said.
He alleged that MNAs had not voted according to their will on Saturday, just as they could not when Prime Minister Imran was first appointed.
"If we have to obtain democratic space for democratic forces then we have to do politics in the streets, parliament, Senate and assemblies. We can't leave them empty for these puppets to come and sit on those important offices and forums."
'Learned from mistakes'
Hamza, who was released from jail on bail last month, in his remarks said the objectives of the PDM weren't limited to a long march or a no-confidence motion in the short term. Instead, he said, it aimed to correct "the destruction caused in this country in these [past] three years".
He said the people of Punjab faced issues such as a shortage of medicines or mounds of trash lying on roads, while crop production of cotton, wheat and sugarcane was either at its lowest point or had significantly reduced.
"The state of the economy [and] of inflation is in front of you," he told reporters.
Hamza said the PML-N and PPP had learned a lot from the Charter of Democracy, because of which "we moved forward with good traditions for 10 years. There were mistakes but we learned from them."
He lamented, however, that in the last three years a culture of "rowdiness, cursing and misbehaviour" had become prevalent, citing noisy parliament sessions and yesterday's incident outside the parliament where PML-N leaders were allegedly manhandled by PTI supporters.
"These things are not good for democracy and Pakistan," the PML-N leader said.
He said because the PTI had enjoyed being in government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa for 10 years, its loss in the Nowshera by-poll along with losses in Sindh by-elections to the PPP indicated that the "people have buried this false slogan of change".
Hamza said the PDM member parties had accepted Gilani as their joint candidate for the Senate chairman "from the heart". He praised Gilani as a leader who had participated in politics for decades and earned his stature.
He said Gilani's win on the Senate seat had resonated not just within the parliament but even with the "pushcart driver and the labourer".
"We have to continue to take the parliament and the nation along with us.
"We will continue our struggle in the assemblies too and go amongst the people. The logical end of this is that we will show a better Pakistan to the people of Pakistan," he added.