PESHAWAR: PPP leader Asif Ali Zardari has urged party leaders to step up their campaign for general elections despite his “pessimism” about the exercise being free and fair, sources have told Dawn.

This was conveyed to PPP leaders during meetings at Peshawar’s Gove­rnor House. Mr Zardari, who arrived in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s provincial capital for a day-long visit on Saturday evening, spent his time in the governor’s official residence due to security concerns.

He had arrived at the invitation of former provincial minister Ziaullah Afridi to attend the nikah ceremony of his son, Mohammad Mustafa Afridi, party officials said.

Mr Zardari also held a meeting with KP Governor Ghulam Ali. Mayor Peshawar and Governor Ali’s son, Zubair Ali, and Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam leader Arbab Farooq were also present.

According to sources, the ex-president also held meetings with other party leaders at Governor House due to security concerns.

Among the PPP leaders who met the former president were PPP KP chapter president Mohammad Ali Shah Bacha, former provincial president Zahir Ali, provincial senior vice president Syed Ayub Shah, former speaker of KP Assembly Kiramatullah Chagharmati, Peshawar division president Misbahullah, Razaullah Khan, and others.

The meeting deliberated upon the current political situation and preparation for the upcoming polls.

As per a source, Mr Zardari “appeared pessimistic about fair and impartial general elections” on Feb 8, 2024, but urged party leaders to make efforts for the success of PPP candidates.

He expressed confidence that PPP would emerge successful in Sindh province.

“PPP is the only democratic political party which does not believe in the concept of using powers for winning the election, and it will continue its efforts to reach the voters in every nook and corner of the country during the ongoing election campaign,” the source quoted Mr Zardari as saying during the meetings.

Dawn attempted to contact PPP’s provincial president, Mr Bacha, and information secretary, Amjad Afridi, for comments, but they could not be reached.

The former president was also expected to hold meetings with disgruntled party leaders, including former federal minister Arbab Alamgir and others.

However, no such meeting took place as Mr Zardari only met with guests at the nikah ceremony held at a venue in the Shaheen Town area. He left for the airport soon after the event.

Mr Shah, PPP’s provincial senior vice president, told Dawn that no formal discussion on the political situation was held during the meetings, and the party leaders had no prior information about Mr Zardari’s arrival.

He, however, added that it was time for the PPP to take the initiative to woo disgruntled leaders.

Meeting discusses candidates from KP

Separately in Karachi, a meeting was held to discuss the names of potential PPP candidates from KP for the February 8 general elections.

A statement issued by Bilawal House said the meeting of PPP’s parliamentary board for KP was headed by Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari. Several PPP leaders from different parts of the country also attended the meeting through a video link.

The meeting was part of the ongoing process to finalise the names of candidates for the seats of national and provincial assemblies from each province.

Former prime minister Yousuf Raza Gillani, Faryal Talpur, Faisal Karim Kundi, Senator Rubina Khalid and Muhammad Ali Shah Bacha also attended the meeting.

The meeting also discussed the credentials of those who had applied for party tickets, added the statement.

Imran Ayub in Karachi also contributed to this report

Published in Dawn, December 18th, 2023

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