Shehbaz urges Bilawal to refrain from making political atmosphere ‘tense’ after Nawaz debate challenge

Published January 28, 2024
PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif speaks on Dawn News programme ‘Live with Adil Shahzeb’. — DawnNewsTV
PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif speaks on Dawn News programme ‘Live with Adil Shahzeb’. — DawnNewsTV

PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif has urged PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari to refrain from making the political atmosphere “tense” and from taking political rivalries too far.

The remarks came after Bilawal proposed a debate between him and PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif any time before the election day.

Bilawal has repeatedly criticised the PML-N during his election trail as the competition heats up with less than two weeks to go to the February 8 general elections. The PPP scion’s digs have prompted responses from the PML-N’s top echelon in return.

On Friday, Bilawal had proposed a debate between him and Nawaz. “Globally, presidential and prime ministerial candidates participate in televised debates, providing voters with crucial insights into their plans. This transparency is vital for an informed electorate ahead of the voting process,” he had said.

In an apparent response to the challenge, PML-N leader Shehbaz Sharif had said it would have been better if the “gentlemen” had invited Nawaz to an inspection of Sindh than a debate.

Subsequently, Bilawal had demanded the “city and on which date your brother wants to debate”.

“Mian Nawaz Sharif can debate with me in Gambat, Khairpur. He can come and visit the Gambat Institute of Medical Sciences, a hospital that surpasses any hospital in Punjab, and where all treatment is absolutely free,” Bilawal said.

He claimed that despite being the prime minister thrice, Nawaz had never once visited Gambat. “Or perhaps he would prefer to come to Tharparkar, where we can also inspect the infrastructure, and compare Thar with Cholistan. The coal project in Thar, which you and your brother opposed, is providing cheap electricity not to Karachi, but to Faisalabad,” he said.

In an interview with Dawn News show ‘Live with Adil Shahzeb’ aired on Saturday night, Shehbaz was asked about Bilawal’s remarks.

“I always said he is an educated youngster with a future in this country. But that did not mean he treads a path or course that makes the political situation tense and rivalries are taken too far,” the PML-N leader said.

He said that the essence of the charter of democracy allowed parties to presents its stance and manifesto but “we should be careful when talking about other parties and their leadership”.

Shehbaz went on to say that Bilawal had a “long way to go” in politics.

“Yesterday, he said he wanted to indulge in a formal debate with Nawaz Sharif. My advice would be that instead of a faceoff, he should instead take Nawaz Sharif to inspect the province of Sindh. This way a discussion and a comparison will also take place,” he said.

“I feel that the real thing to do at the end of the day is what we are thinking about the public and what will we end up doing for them. This is what people want to hear from us. They don’t want to hear someone bashing his rivals,” he said.

“The poor man is drowning in poverty and unemployment. He has been crushed and this is a ‘do-or-die situation’ for Pakistan,” Shehbaz concluded.

‘Hunting the tiger down’

During his election campaign, Bilawal has time and again lambasted the PML-N for “fixing the match” and vowed to “hunt the tiger down with the arrow”, a reference to the PPP and PML-N’s electoral symbols.

At a rally in Peshawar yesterday, the PPP chairman criticised his political opponents over their “reluctance” to campaign for the Feb 8 elections over the “flimsy excuses of cold weather and security threats”.

He had said Nawaz became the prime minister but couldn’t protect his government despite having his two-thirds majority in the National Assembly and later resorted to the narrative of “mujhe kyun nikala (why was I ousted?)”.

“Our opponents insist they’re contesting election on the basis of their ‘good’ performance in the government. Actually, they’re claiming credit for our accomplishments,” Bilawal had added.

Previously, he also sought the votes of PML-N supporters for the sake of democracy. “If the PML-N workers want democracy and sanctity of the vote to prevail, they should stamp the symbol of the arrow,” the PPP chairman had said.


To find your constituency and location of your polling booth, SMS your NIC number (no spaces) to 8300. Once you know your constituency, visit the ECP website here for candidates.

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