Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari on Friday rejected any possibility of entering into a coalition with the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) to form the next government after elections on Feb. 8.
“Who told you that the PPP will form a coalition government with them [PMLN]?” he said in response to a question on the potential for the PMLN to secure a maximum number of seats in the National Assembly but still falling short of forming government without the PPP’s support. “I have stated this before as well: ‘Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me’,” he said, referring to the PPP and PMLN’s coalition in the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM)-led government.
As the election campaign has picked up, Bhutto-Zardari has made opposition to the PMLN a central plank of his rallies. In contrast, the PMLN has barely even acknowledged the PPP, choosing to focus its ire on the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI).
“If they [PMLN] were banking on the [PPP] to form their government, then it will be tough for them,” Bhutto-Zardari continued, claiming the PMLN was not as strong in Punjab today as it had been in the past. Asserting that the a majority of the public did not support PMLN leader Nawaz Sharif’s election to the Prime Minister’s Office for a fourth time—despite a recent poll showing Sharif trailing just behind Imran Khan, with Bhutto-Zardari a distant third—he claimed that the PPP would seek to form the next government with the support of independent candidates.
While the PPP chairman did not specify who the independent candidates might be, he was likely referring to candidates of the PTI, who are contesting as independents after the Election Commission of Pakistan withdrew their electoral symbol.
During the interview, Bhutto-Zardari blamed the PMLN for delaying the revival of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) program, maintaining this had hurt the economy. He also claimed that while he personally did not support the withdrawal of the PTI’s electoral symbol, it was fully in line with legal requirements and was a result of the party’s own faults.
“When the PTI was in the government, they were told to hold intra-party elections,” he said, adding the party’s lawyers had appeared unprepared before the Supreme Court and the court had no choice but to proceed per legal requirements. “Party workers had to bear this loss because of PTI’s legal team,” he added.