ISLAMABAD, Nov 30: The Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) on Friday issued a five-point manifesto brimming with pledges and promises, leaving no doubt about its intention to participate in the Jan 8 polls.

However, Benazir Bhutto, unveiling details of the manifesto at a news conference at the Zardari House, said that her party was ready to review its decision to take part in the election if all opposition parties got united to achieve a ‘common goal.’

“If opposition parties agree on a strategy to achieve a common goal after boycotting the election, we will also reconsider our decision,” Ms Bhutto said.

She termed President Pervez Musharraf’s decisions to hang up his army uniform and lift the emergency as ‘positive steps’ and a result of the struggle and sacrifices of the PPP, civil society members, lawyers and judges.

She also welcomed President Musharraf’s move to allow her and PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif to return to the country and to contest election.

“We acknowledge these positive steps,” she said, adding that despite all these ‘confidence-building measures’, ‘a lot’ still needed to be done.

The PPP chairperson said her party was taking part in the election ‘under protest’, knowing that the government had prepared a plan to rig the elections. She regretted that the Election Commission was not taking any action against those who were violating the code of conduct.

She appealed to the people to take part in the election to ‘expose the regime’s plan to rig the polls’.

Despite repeated questions, Ms Bhutto remained non-committal on the issue of the restoration of deposed Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry.

“When democracy will be restored, judiciary will become independent,” she said.

The PPP leader said she respected Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry and other judges as they stood against tyranny, but there were several other constitutional issues pending even before Nov 3.

‘FIVE Es’: Ms Bhutto said the PPP’s manifesto based on ‘five Es’ --employment, education, energy, environment and equality. She said the PPP’s slogan for the election was ‘Ilm, Roshni, Sab Ko Kam, Roti, Kapra Aur Makan, Maang Raha Hai Har Insaan’.

She said if the party was voted into office, it would put in place a Public Works Programme to guarantee employment for at least one year to one working member of the poorest 25 per cent families of Pakistan.

She said the party would launch a ‘Literacy and Health Corps Scheme’ to address unemployment among the educated youth. Under the scheme, she said, there would be an employment guarantee of two years to all youth completing intermediate, graduation and post-graduation in a given year.

Ms Bhutto said her party would put in place an appropriate micro-finance policy and institutional reforms.

The party had set a target of providing micro-finance to five million people to help them establish their own businesses, she said.

She said the PPP would take measures to ensure universal enrolment by 2015 of all children between the ages of five and ten.

Ms Bhutto announced that the PPP would revive its 1996 planned, ‘Apna Ghar’, a scheme to provide free boarding school for disadvantaged children. She said the PPP government would lift the ban on student unions as it had done in all its tenures. However, she said, it would not permit arms on the campuses.

She further said her party would initiate madressah reforms to discourage these institutions from becoming military headquarters and arms depots.

The PPP chairperson said the party would address environmental challenges being faced by the country. She said the PPP would assist vulnerable people in coping with the impact of climate change and ecological damage.

“We will create a cadre of environment workers to facilitate poor communities in urban and rural areas and in adopting measures to promote conservations, protect the environment and secure their lives and livelihood from environmental threats,” she said.

Ms Bhutto said the PPP would improve water resource management by developing national consensus on water reservoirs to meet the country’s future water and energy requirements.

She said the shortage of electricity would be overcome by the PPP government on ‘war footing.’, adding her government would continue with the previous policy of mobilising the private sector and encouraging independent power producers (IPPs) to invest in the country’s power sector.

She said larger dams, except for power production, would be discouraged by evolving a consensus among all provinces. She said the development of bio-fuels to offset oil for transportation and generation would be prioritised.

She announced that fuel surcharge would be reduced by one-third of its current value, providing immediate relief to the power industry and the transportation sector.

In line with its ‘Roti, Kapra and Makan’ slogan, she said her party would deliver food, housing and basic incomes through specific policy initiatives. For the provision of housing to lower and middle class families, she said the PPP had developed a comprehensive programme for sustainable long-term housing credits.

The PPP leader said that her party would provide financial support to all citizens over the age of 65 with no source of income.

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