Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari appeared to break from the narrative of his son, and party chairman, Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari on Sunday, as he expressed confidence in the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP)’s ability to conduct free and fair elections on Feb. 8, 2024.
Since the dissolution of the National Assembly in mid-August, Bhutto-Zardari has issued several statements decrying the lack of a “level-playing field,” and accusing the rival Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) of rigging to secure victory in the upcoming polls. Last week, he alleged PMLN leader Nawaz Sharif was attempting to come into power via “selection,” but did not explain who was doing the “selecting,” as he maintained the PPP had no disagreements with the establishment. He has also called on “old politicians” to stop contesting elections and make room for “younger” voices.
In a statement, the elder Zardari said the environment in the country was not only conducive for elections, and there should be no further delays to the process. Maintaining that the PPP was the only party capable of contesting polls in all kinds of “environments,” he voiced confidence in the ECP holding fully free and fair polls next year.
The former president also claimed that the PPP would secure a majority in the polls on Feb. 8.
This is not the first Zardari’s views have differed from those of his party chairman. Earlier this year, as Bhutto-Zardari demanded polls within 90 days of the assembly’s dissolution, Zardari had issued a statement expressing confidence in ECP’s abilities and stressed that the delimitation of constituencies was a legal requirement prior to conducting polls. “The ECP would conduct elections as per the Constitution, and my party has full confidence in the chief election commissioner and all ECP members,” he had added.
The differing views have triggered speculation over whether the two PPP leaders are at odds on how to contest the polls or are playing a “good cop, bad cop” game in a bid to court public support. The party’s rivals, most notably the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, have maintained that the PPP was complicit in delaying polls by approving the publication of the new census results, adding its criticism stems from its inability to secure a “favorable” environment with the establishment.