PESHAWAR: PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari on Saturday said his party was ready to participate in the upcoming general elections, accusing its opponents of disrespecting the vote and stressing that it was a misunderstanding that a prime minister could be forcibly imposed on the country.
Addressing a workers’ convention in Peshawar, he said the PPP was ready to fight and would not become a part of any Islami Jamhoori Ittehad (IJI), a united political alliance formed before the 1988 elections to counter the PPP.
He claimed that the PPP was accustomed to overcoming unfair political challenges, insisting that the party never had a level playing field in general elections.
“Was there any level playing field in 1988 when IJI was formed against [former prime minister] Benazir Bhutto?” he asked. “But still, Benazir Bhutto won the election and became the first female prime minister of the country.”
Criticises old and new political rivals for U-turns, governance failures
He also highlighted how the 2002 elections under the military ruler Pervez Musharraf were “snatched away” from the PPP. “Even then, PPP performed well. But some people turned out to be sellouts. Benazir termed them ‘Pakistan People’s Parasites’,” he added.
Questioning the alleged impartiality of the 2008 elections, which the PPP won, he said 200 workers were killed in the first pre-election rally held on Oct 18, 2007, adding that the party’s leader Benazir was also assassinated later that year on Dec 27.
“But still, the election was postponed. It had to take place within a week, but they took 40 days. Despite all that, the PPP won the election and formed a government,” he stressed.
He made it clear that if someone thought that they could forcibly make someone the prime minister, they were wrong. He said PPP activists were present in the field as he vowed not to become part of any future IJI and contest on his party’s symbol, the arrow.
Mr Bhutto-Zardari, who served as the foreign minister in the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) administration, said the 16-month-long government was tough, but he could at least feel proud of his performance.
“I feel proud and I am willing to contest elections based on my performance,” he said and questioned the readiness of other cabinet members from PDM parties for the upcoming polls. “Are they ready to contest polls on their performance?” he wondered.
The PPP chairman criticised both his old and new political rivals. He targeted PTI chief Imran Khan for his U-turns, stressing that it represented cowardice, not a leader’s feature.
Mr Bhutto-Zardari also flayed the PML-N for its governance failures and leaving behind its vote ko izzat do narrative. He accused the Sharifs’ party of transforming into the ‘Mehngai League’ and failing to respect the voters’ mandate.
Pointing out the “ineffectiveness” of health cards introduced in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, he claimed that the health scheme favoured private hospitals and the wealthy.
“Islam is our religion, democracy is our politics, socialism is our economy, and the power rests with the people,” he said, stressing that the PPP’s people-centric approach was different from that of other parties, which he accused of favouring the elite.
Highlighting the significant number of young people in the country, Mr Bhutto-Zardari urged older politicians to step aside and called for an end to the politics of confrontation and hatred.
He also promised that once in power, the PPP would expand the Benazir Income Support Programme and introduce Mazdoor Cards to support workers.
Published in Dawn, November 19th, 2023