KARACHI: Despite repeated assurances from the top military leadership of staying apolitical, the Pakistan Peoples Party on Friday sounded doubtful about such claims, saying a long and consistent political struggle is still needed to bring an end to the politics of “selection” and bringing blue-eyed people to power.

Amid electioneering, the PPP clubbed its reservations over the “neutrality of the institutions” with the charges against the PML-N which it called a “king’s party”, maintaining the same strong tone against the past ally and showing no thaw in relations between the two parties.

“The PPP through 18th Amendment [to the Constitution] has closed all doors to martial law in the country,” PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari said in reply to a question about any threat to democracy and his thoughts about the military establishment’s claim of being apolitical.

“As far as the politics of selection and Ladla [blue-eyed] is concerned, I think we still have to struggle more so this tradition [of selection and choosing blue-eyed] comes to an end. We need to struggle more so only the people are trusted for their votes and who they elect as their prime minister,” he said while talking reporters in Karachi.

Bilawal vows to defeat ‘king’s party’ again just as his party did in 2008

The PPP chairman also took aim at the recently launched Istehkam-i-Pakistan Party (IPP) and questioned the “integrity” of its leaders, warning them that they would have to pay the price for their change of political loyalty in the upcoming elections.

He was surprised about those former PTI leaders joining the IPP and also questioned those who “created such parties” before general elections despite the fact that the political sense among the people has grown much more than past years and they know “characters” of each and every individual involved in active politics.

“Such actions [creating new parties before elections] also raise questions on the claims of neutrality,” he said.

“And on the other hand, those who join such parties have always paid the price for their disloyalty, dishonesty and cheating in the elections. The people judge them with the fact that those who cannot stand with their original parties at hard times cannot be trusted for the future of the country.”

The PPP chairman also continued his criticism of the party’s past allies. However, while he took a strong line against the PML-N, he avoided dire­ctly attacking Maulana Fazlur Rehman’s JUI-F.

For the PML-N, Mr Bhutto-Zardari vowed to defeat the “king’s party” like it did in 2008 and for the JUI-F, he hinted at the possibility of “seat adjustment or political alliance” with the right-wing party.

“Maulana’s party is a national- level party,” he said. “He’s even active in Sindh like other provinces of the country. As the election momentum builds up, we would keep engaging with him [Maulana Fazl]. We can contest the elections while making alliance with his party and can also field candidates against each other. The options are open.”

‘Punctured’ polls

Separately, senior PPP leader and former federal minister Syed Khurshid Shah warned that the country may suffer irreparable losses in case the upcoming general election is found to be ‘selection’ or ‘punctured’.

“There will be an irreparable loss to the country if the elections are ‘punctured’ (a reference to PTI’s allegation of 35 ‘punctures’ in the 2013 polls) or there’s found to be ‘selection’ (an allusion to PPP and PML-N’s claims of manipulation of 2018 polls in favour of PTI),” he said in Lahore on Friday.

Talking to media persons after condoling with senior PPP leader Naveed Chaudhry over the demise of his wife, Mr Shah warned that if the opinion of voters was not honoured, ‘selection’ continued and someone was ‘forcibly installed’ as prime minister, the damage would be irreparable.

He chided Nawaz Sharif for not going to jail after returning from abroad as the former prime minister had been conditionally bailed out to get medical treatment from London. He said that had Mr Sharif gone to jail on his homecoming even for a couple of days, his political stature would have improved. He also criticised the PML-N supremo for holding political meetings at the Governor House in Lahore.

“Nawaz Sharif has been hatching a conspiracy on how to steal votes while sitting in the Governor House,” he said, adding whether the future prime minister belongs to Larkana or Lahore, his election must be through vote, and not force.

Amjad Mahmood in Lahore also contributed to this report

Published in Dawn, November 11th, 2023

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