Bilawal says Zardari to be PPP’s candidate for president

Published February 18, 2024
PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari addresses a rally in Thatta, Sindh on February 18, 2024. — DawnNewsTv
PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari addresses a rally in Thatta, Sindh on February 18, 2024. — DawnNewsTv

PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari on Sunday said his father Asif Ali Zardari would be the party’s candidate for the presidential election.

The comments come a day after talks between PPP and PML-N to devise a power-sharing formula in the upcoming coalition government remained inconclusive, though both sides claimed “significant progress” in the discussions. Both parties decided to meet again on Monday (tomorrow) to finalise the power-sharing formula.

A brief announcement issued by PML-N after the meeting stated that there had been “significant progress” in talks with both sides, stressing the need for a “strong democratic government”.

In the previous meeting on Thursday, representatives of both parties sought more time to assess the proposals discussed in the first meeting.

The PPP has assured PML-N of its support in the government formation and election of the next prime minister on the condition that, in return, it will get key constitutional offices, including that of the president. The PPP has also announced that despite supporting the PML-N at the centre, the party will not take ministries in the federal cabinet.

Speaking at a rally in Thatta, Bilawal — without taking any names — said that the party had decided that it would move forward with those who had come to them and asked for their votes.

“We will not take any ministries from them. We will not [seek] our benefit but the people’s benefit […] we will ensure that democracy is saved.

“To put out the fire spreading in the country, we have decided that Zardari will be our candidate for the presidential election. And when he takes up the post, he will put out this fire, will save the Centre and will take care of the four provinces,” he said.

During his address, Bilawal said that after the results of the Feb 8 polls, he did not have the right to run for the prime minister’s slot. He went on to say that “Pakistan was burning” and the PPP had decided that it would “put out this fire”.

He said that the the PPP did not wish for any federal ministry or the premiership. “We just want to solve the problems of the people,” he said.

“If we have to give someone our vote for prime minister, then we will ensure that we get the flood affectees in Sindh and Balochistan their due rights,” he said.

Talking about a power-sharing formula he was offered, Bilawal said, “I was told that that they take the first two years and then I am prime minister for the remaining three.

“I said no this. I do not want to become a prime minister like this. If I become the prime minister, it would be after the people of Pakistan elect me,” he said. He said that after the government was formed, he would sit in the National Assembly and represent the people.

He said that the time had come to “save the country”. Talking about the 1977 elections, Bilawal said that false allegations of rigging were levelled after Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto won. He noted that an opposition alliance called Nau Sitaray (nine stars) was formed, which ran a campaign that “ended the system of democracy” and led to the rule of ex-military dictator Ziaul Haq.

Bilawal appealed to all political powers and stakeholders to think of the people. “Do not think of yourself. Think of the people of Pakistan. We can improve this democratic system while staying within it. But […] if such politics of hatred and division keeps spreading in society […] then it will endanger the federation,” he said.

Later, in a post on X Bilawal said, “Thank you Pakistan! Our campaign and results have proven, once again, that the Peoples Party is what binds this nation together.”

“We have reservations over these elections, and will be taking them to the appropriate forums, and we believe the way forward is for all political parties to put aside their personal interests for the interests of the people of Pakistan,” he said.

“Our history has shown who benefits from chaos and division, and the people of Sindh remember the destruction wrought by those who encouraged and brought about the worst dictatorship our country has ever seen,” he said.

“We must not let such a situation arise again. I appeal to all political parties to think of the people. Put aside your differences. The challenges we face are too immense, and history will not judge us kindly if we care more for our ambitions than the fates of over 230 million people,” he said.

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