Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari on Monday hoped the country’s next prime minister will not be from “Lahore”—a reference to both Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) leader Nawaz Sharif and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan.
Addressing media in Karachi after the PPP secured a majority in by-polls for local government elections a day earlier, he maintained the party would contest the polls independently on the basis of its election manifesto. “We won’t look towards anyone and [rely] on public,” he said, adding that while anyone can be a candidate for the prime minister, “the final decision is that of the people.”
Playing down reports of telephonic contact between PPP’s Asif Ali Zardari and PMLN’s Nawaz, Bhutto-Zardari said this was “old” news. “I believe no one should wonder if political parties talk to each other. As a democratic party we never close our doors for dialogue with any political party,” he said.
To a question, he maintained his party was not being provided a level-playing field but expressed confidence that it would nonetheless emerge victorious in elections. “After winning the election, the governments in the federation and provinces will be formed by PPP,” he claimed. “When the PPP will be in power in the KMC, the provinces, and the Center then the solution of the problems of the people will be faster. Like Karachi, youth across the country want employment and whenever the PPP is in government the people get employment,” he added.
Describing the by-polls win as a “trailer,” the former foreign minister said the people had proved they supported the PPP in Sunday’s election. “Even if our [political] opponents unite, they won’t be able to defeat the PPP,” he said, stressing that the party had won the by-polls despite not being in government—a questionable assertion as the PPP is, in fact, in government at the local body level.
“It is necessary that PPP forms the government to introduce people-friendly projects,” Bhutto-Zardari said, urging the public to support his party in the upcoming general elections. “Feb. 8 will be the day of victory for the manifesto of [Zulfikar Ali] Bhutto Shaheed and Benazir Bhutto,” he said, referring to the date announced by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) for the polls.
To a query on reports of U.S.-made weapons being used by militants who attacked the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) base in Mianwali, the former foreign minister said it was unfortunate that terrorists had taken up arms and ammunition abandoned by the U.S. in Afghanistan. “Whether it be Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa or Sindh’s Katcha area, [militants] have what the U.S. left behind in Afghanistan,” he said, stressing that the PPP—if it comes to power—would ensure the effective implementation of the National Action Plan to curtail terrorism.
To another query on the PTI’s involvement in the May 9 riots, Bhutto-Zardari said the people who had not participated in the violence should not be penalized. “Those who attacked Jinnah House and military installations will not be forgiven by the nation,” he said. “However, not everyone [in the PTI] was involved and they must be released.” he added.