Bilawal blames PML-N for lop-sidedness of election arena

Published September 20, 2023
Former foreign minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari speaks to the media in Lahore on Tuesday. — DawnNewsTV
Former foreign minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari speaks to the media in Lahore on Tuesday. — DawnNewsTV

• PPP chairman says PDM should have resolved the issue themselves;
• Khursheed Shah takes aim at ECP over wholesale transfers in all provinces, except Punjab

LAHORE: PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari on Tuesday spoke in no uncertain terms when he said that his party’s complaints regar­ding an ‘uneven playing field’ were directed at its erstwhile ally, the PML-N.

“Our demand for a level playing field is from the PML-N. We have empowered President Zardari to address the complaint and he must be given time for this purpose,” Mr Bhutto-Zardari told the media after condoling with senior journalist Imdad Soomro over the death of his father.

He added that it would be better if this issue is resolved by the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) parties between themselves.

Regarding the Election Commission’s (ECP) alleged discrimination in allowing development projects in Punjab, but banning the same in Sindh, he said the law was clear on development funds, federal, provincial and local budgets.

“If schemes have been approved and are budgeted, they should be allowed to continue. Perhaps it [the ECP’s ban] would not have been so concerning had it been a question of 90 days only, but the election date has not even been announced yet,” he said.

“It cannot be so that budgeted schemes are not allowed to continue in Sindh while federal projects are,” he said.

“The caretaker government in Punjab has even taken a new initiative, which is to provide interest-free loans to judges so that they can buy plots. This puts a moral, legal and constitutional obligation on the ECP to ensure that there is a level playing field in the centre as well as the provinces.”

The PPP chairman said that if there is to be no further development on new or ongoing schemes in Sindh, then it should be the same in other provinces as well.

Meanwhile, in a related development, the ECP wrote to the Sindh chief secretary yesterday to clarify that it had not placed any bar on key projects that had been approved before the dissolution of the provincial assembly.

Answering a question about the impact of PTI Chairman Imran Khan’s arrest on elections, Mr Bhutto-Zardari said the common man is concerned only with the historic price hikes and not with who is behind bars and who is not.

“They have to choose between sending their kids to school, acquiring healthcare for their elders or paying power bills,” he said. “They need hope and to know that their vote will truly be counted and that their true representatives will be negotiating with the IMF in an effort to provide them relief.

“When it comes to the question of the PPP being able to achieve this feat, the party’s history has proved that it is able to do so. The PPP helped the country not only stay afloat but prosper during the global recession of 2008,” Mr Bhutto-Zardari said.

As regards PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif’s return to the country, Mr Bhutto-Zardari told a questioner that this had been a longstanding demand of the PPP and that if a date has now been announced by the PML-N, his party welcomes it. “As far as legal cases are concerned, we are ready to face ours and we are sure they are too,” he added.

Gripe over wholesale transfers

After the PPP chairman’s diatribe against their erstwhile coalition partners, senior PPP leader Syed Khursheed Shah also blamed both the PML-N and the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) for not providing a level playing field to the PPP.

“We are not being given a level playing field and without it, the supremacy of parliament is impossible,” Mr Shah said during an appearance on Geo News on Tuesday.

He reiterated the party’s gripe that certain bureaucrats with close affiliations to the PML-N had been inducted into the caretaker cabinet. “Everybody knows who is Ahad Cheema and Fawad Hasan Fawad,” he added.

Mr Shah also lamented that wholesale postings and transfers had been made in Sindh, Balochistan and Khyber Paktunkhwa, but nothing similar had happened in Punjab. “Removed chief secretaries and inspectors general of police of the three provinces have so far not been posted anywhere. But the ECP is turning a blind eye,” he added.

PML-N leader Khawaja Asif, however, claimed that reports suggested the Sindh chief secretary was taking directions from the PPP, and several officials had been transferred on the party’s diktat.

He also tried to dispel the impression that senior bureaucrats who had previously worked with the PML-N necessarily had leanings towards the party.

“Ahad Cheema and Fawad Hasan Fawad were senior bureaucrats who had served not only the PML-N government, but many other regimes as well,” he said.

Syed Irfan Raza in Islamabad also contributed to this report

Published in Dawn, September 20th, 2023

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