BILAWAL Bhutto-Zardari addressing the press conference.—Tanveer Shahzad / White Star
BILAWAL Bhutto-Zardari addressing the press conference.—Tanveer Shahzad / White Star

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari has castigated the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) for giving the party ticket to an alleged former associate of the banned Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) for the seat reserved for ulema and mashaikh in the Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) Legislative Assembly, stat­ing that such a move would provide an opportunity to India to portray the ongoing freedom movement in the valley as terrorism.

“I want to bring it to your notice that (Imran) Khan Sahib has nominated a former office-bearer of the TTP for a reserved seat of Ulema in AJK (Assembly). We condemn it,” said the PPP chairman while speaking at a press conference after presiding over a meeting of the party ticket holders from the AJK here on Saturday.

Says move will prompt India to portray Kashmir freedom movement as terrorism

“We demand that such people should not be brought into politics. We will contest them in this election and the process. But (Imran) Khan Sahib should think about it as to what message he is sending (abroad). The people of Azad Kashmir are peace-loving people and they believe in peaceful resistance. And you are presenting them before the world as terrorists and the PPP condemns it,” said the PPP chairman without naming the PTI’s candidate Mazhar Saeed Shah.

Polling for the election against eight reserved seats of the AJK Legislative Assembly — five of them for women and one each for technocrats, religious scholars and overseas Kashmiris, is scheduled to be held on August 3.

Mr Bhutto-Zardari, whose party had emerged as the second largest group after the PTI in the AJK Assembly with 11 seats after the July 25 elections in the valley, said if the PTI’s nominee won the seat, it would affect the Kashmir cause and strengthen the Indian narrative about the ongoing freedom stru­ggle of the people of Kashmir.

“India always tries to link the peaceful and democratic Kash­mir struggle and movement with terrorism. They also try to associate Pakistan with terrorism and Taliban. By nominating a former Taliban representative, (Imran) Khan Sahib has sent a wrong message to the world.

It may be recalled that there has been resentment within the PTI circle over the leadership’s decision to award the ticket to Mazhar Saeed and some of the dissidents are also planning to hold a protest in front of the Banigala residence of Prime Minister Imran Khan over it.

Mr Bhutto-Zardari said despite “historic rigging and use of money” by the PTI-led federal government, his party managed to “snatch” 11 seats in AJK. He alleged that money had worked in the AJK elections as the businessmen and ministers belonging to the PTI distributed money among the people to secure votes.

The PPP chairman vowed to expose the alleged rigging in AJK elections.

“Attempts are being made to suppress the PPP. (Indian Prime Minster Narendra) Modi is taking political revenge in occupied Kashmir and Imran Khan is taking political revenge in the AJK. We have faced political revenge before. We will bring to light the violence that took place in Kashmir,” he declared.

In response to a question about the government-proposed electoral reforms, the PPP chairman said the biggest reform would be to eliminate the role of “establishment” from the elections so that the people had the right to elect their representatives.

Replying to another query, Mr Bhutto-Zardari said the PPP was clear and consistent in its policy and still believed that the opposition could together send the present government packing through democratic and parliamentary tools like no-confidence motions. He said the Punjab government of Chief Minister Usman Buzdar could be thrown out if the opposition parties came on one page.

When asked about the possibilities of again joining hands with the main opposition Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), he said there was “confusion” and lack of clarity in the PML-N’s ranks. He said it would be difficult to go with the parties with confusion and lacking clarity.

Published in Dawn, August 1st, 2021

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