ISLAMABAD: Former president Asif Ali Zardari and Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari meet with Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Thursday.—White Star
ISLAMABAD: Former president Asif Ali Zardari and Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari meet with Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Thursday.—White Star

ISLAMABAD: Hours after the Lahore High Court (LHC) announced a significant decision on the election of Punjab Chief Minister Hamza Shehbaz on Thursday, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif met Pakistan Peoples Party’s (PPP) top leadership and discussed ways and means to handle the situation.

According to the PM Office, PPP Chairman and Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari and former president Asif Ali Zardari called on the prime minister and discussed the current political situation. The meeting was also attended by senior PML-N leaders.

A source in the PPP told Dawn that the LHC verdict was discussed and all participants agreed with the minority view in the decision, i.e. “how the vote of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) dissidents will not be counted in the recount of votes” and that the Constitution has no such provision.

However, PPP expressed full support for Hamza Shehbaz and hoped that he will win again in the re-count.

Coalition partners ask how dissidents’ votes can be discarded in recount; PM lauds Chinese support

Mr Zardari, who is said to be a ‘bonding force’ among allies in the ruling coalition, also discussed concerns of coalition partners and urged the PM to address them.

Earlier, the prime minister held separate meetings with the leaders of some allied parties including Khalid Magsi, chief of Balochistan Awami Party (BAP), Chaudhry Salik Hussain of PML-Q and Aslam Bhootani.

Chinese delegation

Prime Minister Sharif said Pakistan stood ready to work closely with China for realising the shared vision of connectivity, prosperity and public well-being.

“Pakistan will continue to support Chinese investors with competitive incentives, access to high-quality infrastructure and unwavering security arrangements,” he said in a meeting with Yang Jiechi, Member of the Politburo of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee and Director of its Foreign Affairs Commission.

Extending a warm welcome to Mr Yang, the PM conveyed the most cordial greetings and best wishes for President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang.

The prime minister noted that Director Yang’s visit marked the continuation of high-level exchanges between Pakistan and China, which are the hallmark of the time-tested all-weather strategic cooperative partnership between the two countries.

He recalled his extensive conversation with Premier Li in May, during which both leaders had reviewed the entire spectrum of bilateral relations and exchanged views on the regional and international situation.

PM Sharif underscored the significance of Director Yang’s visit for accelerating the implementation of the leaders’ consensus on further enhancing bilateral relations across all domains.

He expressed satisfaction at growing bilateral trade and financial linkages, with China’s unstinting support playing an invaluable role in helping Pakistan offset external shocks to global economy and demonstrating the continued resilience of Pakistan-China cooperation at a time of heightened uncertainty on the world stage.

The prime minister particularly thanked China for renewal of the $2.3 billion syndicate facility and its support for preventing the spread of Covid-19 pandemic by providing millions of vaccine doses as well as protective and medical equipment.

The prime minister underlined that as a flagship of the visionary Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), CPEC had transformed Pakistan’s economic base and strengthened capacity for self-development. He reaffirmed the government’s resolve to accelerate the pace and complete CPEC projects at the earliest. The PM also underscored the high importance Pakistan attached to the strategic ML-I and other key projects including Karachi Circular Railway (KCR), Babusar Tunnel, and desalination plant in Karachi.

The CPEC and growing economic linkages had deepened the roots of the abiding friendship between the peoples of both countries, the prime minister noted.

Mr Sharif reiterated his strong condemnation of the Karachi terrorist attack and underscored Pakistan’s determination to bring the perpetrators to justice.

Recalling the recent visit of tri-services delegation to China led by the Chief of the Army Staff, the prime minister expressed satisfaction at growing defence and security cooperation between Pakistan and China which was contributing to regional peace and stability.

The prime minister and Director Yang also exchanged views on the situation in Afghanistan including the humanitarian and economic crises.

Published in Dawn, July 1st, 2022

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