PM convinces Bilawal to steer clear of by-polls

Published February 16, 2023
Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari calls on Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Wednesday.—White Star
Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari calls on Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Wednesday.—White Star

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) has finally managed to convince the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) to stay away from the upcoming by-polls on National Assembly seats, being held on at least 40 seats, while terming them an “exercise in futility”.

These seats had fallen vacant after the acceptance of the resignations of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) lawmakers by National Assembly Speaker Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, paving the way for their de-seating by the Election Commission.

A joint statement by the ruling coalition was expected to elaborate on the decision, but by the time this story went to press, no such statement had been issued. Prior to this decision, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) had already decided that it would not take part in the by-polls, but its main ally, the PPP, was uncertain on this question, having already indicated their desire to compete in Punjab.

In light of the indecision surrounding its participation in by-polls, the PPP had taken the matter to its parliamentary board which also remained indecisive on the issue and gave authority to the party chairperson, Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, to make an appropriate decision.

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif held a meeting with Mr Bhutto-Zardari at the Prime Minister’s House and managed to convince him against contesting by-elections as it would not be a “sagacious decision”.

The meeting came just two days after the PPP chief invited all political parties to sit together to develop a consensus on a code of conduct that they will not ‘cross the line’ while opposing each other, in and outside parliament.

The PM was of the view that the current political and economic situation of the country was not favouring the PDM in light of the unprecedented price hike, a source privy to the meeting told Dawn.

The source said after the PPP chairperson agreed to the PM’s advice, Mr Sharif contacted heads of other allied parties who also agreed to the PM’s point of view and decided to issue a joint statement in this regard.

It may be noted that the Election Commission had decided to conduct by-elections on 86 National Assembly seats in March, likely to be followed by by-polls on more NA constituencies in April.

But due to a decision of the Lahore High Court (LHC) which barred the ECP from holding by-polls on 43 vacant seats of the NA, the commission will only conduct elections on 40 seats.

NA Speaker Raja Pervez Ashraf accepted the resignation of 113 members of the PTI this month, including 86 members from the general seats, the ECP de-notified 35 each on Jan 17 and Jan 20, and 43 others on Jan 25.

However, the LHC on Jan 8 suspended the ECP order de-notifying 43 PTI MNAs and restrained the election body from holding by-polls in the said constituencies.

Meeting with IAEA DG

Earlier, PM Sharif stressed the need for greater collaboration with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in terms of research on new high-yield and drought resistant varieties of crops.

In a meeting with Director General IAEA Rafael Mariano Grossi, the prime minister emphasised the need for such a collaboration in view of the impact of climate change on Pakistan and linked challenges, including water, energy and food security.

Published in Dawn, February 16th, 2023

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