While he did not directly name former ruling coalition partner Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz), Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari on Friday claimed the party had faced the consequences of “conspiring” against his party in the 2013 elections during the 2018 polls.
“A conspiracy was made to keep out the party representing the underprivileged class of Punjab,” he alleged during a press conference in Lahore after the conclusion of the PPP’s Central Executive Committee (CEC) meeting. Alleging “everyone” was aware of how former Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) chief Lt. Gen. (retd.) Shuja Pasha, former chief justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Chaudhary and a “political party” conducted “RO elections” in 2013, he claimed the PPP had been “expelled” from Punjab in an “undemocratic” manner. “Later this party [PMLN] itself suffered due to this conspiracy in Punjab,” he claimed.
In the 2018 elections, he continued, an “alliance” between Lt. Gen. (retd.) Faiz Hameed, former CJP Saqib Nisar and “a political party”—a reference to the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI)—had done the same to the PMLN.
To a question on attempts by the PPP to revive its standing in Punjab despite being largely restricted to Sindh in the previous elections, Bhutto-Zardari again took a dig at the PMLN, claiming no one asked Nawaz Sharif whether he had any interest in Sindh while not spending a “single night” there. “No one should assume that the PPP has confined itself to a single province,” he said, adding even if the party decided against contesting elections from a particular constituency, it did not mean it lacked a presence there. “The Peoples Party is the party that was born in Punjab,” he said. “The Peoples Party is present everywhere—Lahore, Quetta, Peshawar or Karachi,” he added.
In another reference to the PMLN, he claimed the PPP’s complaint of a lack of a “level playing field” was against one political party. He said the CEC had empowered PPP Co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari to address this issue at appropriate forums. “Hopefully, our complaint will be addressed soon and I will speak openly after that,” he added.
To a question on the Supreme Court’s ruling nullifying NAB amendments, Bhutto-Zardari said it was an expected verdict. “We have this position that NAB is an institution created by a dictator and it should be closed,” he said, adding his party was ready to face any graft cases against its members.
Prior to taking questions from journalists, the PPP chief read out a resolution passed by the CEC upon the conclusion of its meeting. In it, the party reiterated calls for the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to immediately announce an “election date and schedule,” adding this was necessary to end “chronic political instability.”
The CEC also called for the incumbent government to provide relief to people suffering from “spiraling inflation, unemployment and poverty as well as, electricity, utility bills, and petrol prices.” However, it added, this should not be accomplished by initiating “irresponsible macroeconomic actions” that “destabilize” Pakistan’s multilateral commitments.
Bhutto-Zardari said the CEC meeting had been briefed on riverine floods in Kasur, Okara, Vehari, Bahawalnagar, Pakpattan, Lodhran and Bahawalpur and called for the affected areas to be declared “disaster-hit” and emergency cash distributed to the affected via the Benazir Income Support Program.
The CEC also expressed solidarity with the Christian community of Jaranwala. “The party also expressed its disappointment at the blocking of a Senate resolution it had requisitioned on the same issue to pass a House resolution,” he said.