Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari on Friday reiterated his party’s demand for general elections within 90 days of the dissolution of the National Assembly, but acknowledged that even if this could not be achieved, an election schedule should still be announced.
“The PPP demands that the elections be held within 90 days,” he told media in Karachi, adding polls should be held at the earliest possible time and as per the Constitution. Referring to last month’s meeting between a PPP delegation and the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), he said it was heartening that the electoral body had reduced the timeline for delimitation to expedite the election process. “As far as elections are concerned, we think that they should be held within 90 days, but you think otherwise. That’s fine. But announce the election date. Announce the election schedule. If not 90 days, then 100 days; if not 100 days, then 120 days,” he said.
To a question, he said the ECP had proved its “standard and credibility” through its “performance” of the past four years. “The ECP proved its performance in Daska,” he said, referring to rigging by the Punjab government of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) in 2021. He hoped the ECP would continue this by conducting free and fair elections within the constitutional timeframe of 90 days.
Responding to a query on a statement by Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (Fazl) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman accusing the PPP of preventing elections from being held early last year, Bhutto-Zardari said he did not want to get into details out of respect for the PDM chief. “But I will tell you this: PPP was ready for elections before, was ready for elections on May 14 and was ready for elections in 60 days and is ready for elections in 90 days according to the Constitution,” he added.
On recent meetings between the business community and Army chief Gen. Asim Munir, the PPP leader said it was “nothing new” and such meetings had also happened in the past. However, he stressed, the best way to pull the country out of prevailing crises was through the political process. “The businessmen meeting the Army chief is not a new thing in the country,” he said. “The business community has been meeting military chiefs in the past as well. They even have access to politicians and bureaucracy, including the Army chief and the judiciary,” he said, noting it was the common man who lacked access to anyone except political parties.
Asserting that the PPP focused on people-friendly politics and governance, he said the party’s contest was not with rivals, but with inflation, unemployment and poverty.
Bhutto-Zardari further said he wished to send a message to “puppet makers” to stop experimenting on the people of Pakistan. “Let the people make their decisions,” he said, adding that whoever won the polls should be acceptable to all.
In an apparent reference to PTI chief Imran Khan, who is currently imprisoned in Attock Jail, the PPP leader said he wanted to convey to people languishing in prison not to panic. “I want to say, ghabrana nahi hai to those who are lingering in jail and facing a difficult time,” he said, adding this was part of the political process in Pakistan and the detainee was being “trained” through the hardship.
“Those who were imposed on Pakistan attacked the General Headquarters (GHQ) on May 9,” he said, adding that the “puppet makers” had realized their experiments could not continue.
To a question on an alleged crackdown against PPP-linked bureaucrats and former lawmakers, he regretted that it appeared to be focused solely on Sindh and called for any such action to be applied nationwide.