KARACHI: The PPP on Tuesday appeared to demonstrate for the first time some flexibility in its rigid stance of holding general elections within 90 days, as it called for polls “according to the Constitution,” without specifying the three-month deadline.

Since the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) announced its delimitation plan last month, which made polls within 90 days improbable, the PPP had been the most vocal among all parties in demanding the nationwide exercise within three months.

On more than one occasion, senior PPP leaders, including Sherry Rehman, Nisar Khuhro and Nayyar Bukhari, reiterated the demand, going as far as hinting at a “legal course” if the ECP failed to meet the constitutional deadline.

However, the fresh message comes from the top leadership, where PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, in meetings with party leaders, urged that only the continuation of the democratic process could solve the host of challenges being faced by the country.

“The general elections should be held according to the Constitution so that the democratic government can solve the problems of the people,” said a statement issued by the Bilawal House after the chairman’s separate meetings with party leaders including former Sindh CM Murad Ali Shah, Mr Khuhro, Syed Nasir Hussain Shah, Syed Naveed Qamar and Shagufta Jumani.

This is the first instance in recent weeks where the party called for adhering to the Constitution, without explicitly referring to the 90-day deadline.

Mr Khuhro, who reiterated the demand on Aug 12, a day after the dissolution of the Sindh Assembly, also seemed to have acquiesced to the new party line. The senator said his party always stood with the Constitution and would continue to do so for a strong and prosperous democratic system.

He said the Elections Act, 2017, was not superior to the Constitution and it clearly stated that elections must be held within 90 days. “The fresh delimitation would not be very practically effective as there’s no chance of any increase in the number of seats in the national and provincial assemblies,” he told Dawn.

‘Vigorous participation in polls’

According to the statement, the political and economic situation, public issues and organisational matters were discussed during the meetings. Mr Bhutto-Zardari said his party was ready for polls and will participate in it vigorously.

The party’s organisation and units should be ready to “play their dynamic and effective role by ensuring the door-to-door election campaign,” the statement quoted the PPP chairman as saying. “It is not easy to get better results in the elections without the active participation of women in the democratic system. Women should play their positive role in general elections across the country.”

During his meeting with the PPP chairman, the former CM briefed him about the recent decisions by the caretaker government that would “badly affect welfare projects in Sindh”.

“He [Mr Shah] told the party chairman that in view of inflation … PPP’s previous government in Sindh had allocated subsidy for public transport so that the fares would not increase in the worst case of inflation, but the caretaker government has stopped such subsidies,” said the statement.

It also claimed the caretaker government has frozen the funds allocated for development projects and government hospitals of Sindh.

Published in Dawn, September 6th, 2023

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