KARACHI, Jan 25: The Pakistan People’s Party co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari claimed on Friday that his party would register a thumping victory in the Feb 18 election and said that the people would not let the election be stolen.

“According to our assessment we are winning in the whole of Pakistan, despite many of our reservations which we have and will point out to the Election Commission for redressal,” said Mr Zardari at a news conference in Bilawal House after presiding over a meeting of PPP leaders from Punjab.

Makhdoom Amin Fahim, Jehangir Badr, Raza Rabbani, Farooq Naek, Syed Qaim Ali Shah, Dr Fehmida Mirza, Raja Pervez Ashraf and Atfab Shabaan Mirani accompanied the confident-looking Mr Zardari at the press conference.

He said the party meeting reviewed all aspects of the evolving political situation. He said that those who were responsible for creating the wheat and flour crisis, power outages and soaring unemployment would try to create a law and order situation on the polling day to manipulate results. But the PPP would not allow that, he added.

He said that the PPP supporters would stage a sit-in outside each polling station until the results were announced by the returning officers. Mr Zardari said that the Feb 18 polls were crucial for the integrity of the country and the PPP was confronting the forces which were working against the foundations of the state.

Mr Zardari said the PPP had worked out on a strategy to counter the alleged rigging plans of the government and had given necessary directives to its district presidents, other office-bearers and workers. He added that different committees were being formed from this point of view.

Answering a question, he said the party had planned a public meeting in Thatta while venues in Punjab and elsewhere was being decided and the campaign would be resumed from where it was interrupted after the assassination of Benazir Bhutto. Mr Zardari will address these meetings.

Answering to a question about his meeting with the US Ambassador Anne W. Patterson at Bilawal House on Friday, Mr Zardari said that the ambassador had actually visited to offer condolences on Ms Bhutto’s assassination, but important issues came under discussion during the 90-minute meeting.

Mr Zardari said the US ambassador had assured him that her country would support the people of Pakistan for the restoration of real democracy in the country.

Mr Zardari apprised the ambassador of the need for UN probe into Ms Bhutto’s assassination. He also stressed the need for free and fair elections in the country and smooth transition to democracy. Sindh PPP president Syed Qaim Ali Shah also attended the meeting.

Mr Zardari acknowledged that the PPP had received no reply from the UN about its request for a UN-led probe, but said he was optimistic about the effort.

He said that inviting Scotland Yard was an admission by the regime that the probe by national agencies was inadequate and needed to be upgraded.