PPP seeks polls as bonhomie with allies teeters

Published September 9, 2023
PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari speaks to reporters in Karachi on Friday. — PPP/Twitter
PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari speaks to reporters in Karachi on Friday. — PPP/Twitter

• Bilawal urges ECP to announce election schedule ‘even if it’s after 120 days’
• Responds to JUI-F chief’s remarks

KARACHI: PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari urged the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Friday to immediately announce a schedule for general elections, no matter if the poll date is within “90 days, 100 days or 120 days” since the National Assembly’s dissolution.

The statement, Mr Bhutto-Zardari’s first such public remarks on the matter, was in stark contrast to the party’s rigid stance of holding general elections within the constitutional limit of 90 days.

Talking to reporters in Karachi, he even insisted that parties could differ over the interpretation of the Constitution and that was why he believed that PPP and other parties couldn’t agree on an election schedule, which has sown discord among the past coalition partners and put them on a collision course.

Since the ECP announced its delimitation plan last month, which made polls within 90 days unlikely, the PPP has 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 for timely polls, even hinting at a legal battle if the ECP failed to meet the constitutional deadline.

However, the party’s renewed stance has apparently toned down its policy. In a parallel development, its stronghold Sindh has witnessed some relief after facing weeks of law and order issues when the Hindu community ended its five-day protest sit-in in Kashmore following the release of its kidnapped members from the clutches of dacoit gangs.

The sudden change in PPP’s stance, for which it only last month hinted at a “legal course” if the ECP failed to meet the constitutional deadline, has once again brought PTI rivals on the same page over the issue of timely elections.

“As far as elections are concerned, we think that they should be held within 90 days, but you [ECP and PDM parties] think otherwise. That’s fine. But announce the election date. Announce the election schedule. If not 90 days, then 100 days; if not 100 days, then 120 days,” the PPP chairman said, stressing that political parties needed to launch poll campaigns.

Mr Bhutto-Zardari was speaking to reporters during his visit to the Malir district, where he met local party leaders and workers. He also visited the home of former MNA Sher Muhammad Baloch, who died last month, to offer his condolences.

In the 20-minute session with the media, Mr Bhutto-Zardari touched upon other issues ranging from growing differences between his party and the PDM alliance to the recent meetings of the army chief with the country’s business people in an attempt to revive the economy.

The PPP chairman stayed away from giving a strong reaction to remarks by JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman, who said on Thursday that the PDM coalition — including parties like JUI-F, MQM-P and BNP-Mengal — had agreed to hold elections early last year, but the PPP went back on its promise and then all parties decided to bring a no-confidence motion against then-prime minister Imran Khan.

“I have huge respect for Maulana sahib and I don’t want to go into detail about what he said,” Mr Bhutto-Zardari said. “But I will tell you this: PPP was ready for elections before, was ready for elections on May 14 and was ready for elections in 60 days and is ready for elections in 90 days according to the Constitution.”

To a question about recent meetings of the business community with the Chief of Army Staff Gen Asim Munir, the PPP chief undermined such happenings and described them as “nothing new.”

However, he asserted that only a political party which is connected with the people and only the political process could bring the country out of crises.

“The businessmen’s meeting the army chief is not a new thing in the country,” he said. “The business community has been meeting military chiefs in the past as well. They even have access to politicians and bureaucracy, including the army chief and the judiciary.” However, he insisted that the common people did not have direct access to the judiciary or anyone else, but they had access to political parties.

Published in Dawn, September 9th, 2023

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