Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, in a veiled dig at Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) leader Nawaz Sharif, on Wednesday said the Constitution, elections, and democracy are at a standstill for “one person’s return.”
Even since the August dissolution of the coalition government—in which the PPP was part of the government with the PMLN and other parties comprising the Pakistan Democratic Movement—several PPP leaders have sought to “distance” themselves from their former allies by taking jibes at Nawaz, who has been in self-imposed exile in London since 2019. Prior to the dissolution, the PPP often called for Nawaz to return to Pakistan and “lead” his party. But with the date of his arrival approaching, the party appears to have had second thoughts and has started questioning alleged “special relief” for him.
“Our previous allies will have to acknowledge that delaying elections will not give respect to vote, but rather disrespect it,” Bhutto-Zardari told a public rally—organized to mark the anniversary of the 2007 Karsaz bombing—in Karachi, referring to the PMLN’s slogan of “vote ko izzat do” (respect the vote). Per routine, the PPP chairman made no mention of the elections being delayed due to the former ruling coalition, including his own party, signing off on census results, triggering the delimitation process that has been used to justify delaying polls.
While criticizing his former ally, Bhutto-Zardari maintained he wanted an end to the politics of divide and abuse. If politicians keep fighting amongst themselves, he said, the country would never progress.
“We demanded that those who defied the Constitution be punished. The entire nation should be aware of who was wrong and who was right,” he said, admitting that the PPP had to bear the “bitter pill” of elections being delayed. Nonetheless, he urged all political parties to back his party in demanding the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) announce a definitive date for the general elections.
“The election commission should immediately announce the date for the polls. We should, once and for all, end this politics of divide and rule,” he said. If the delimitation process had not been initiated, elections were due to take place no later than mid-November; with less than a month left for the deadline, however, it is all-but-impossible that this would be achieved.
The former foreign minister announced his party was launching a mass contact campaign to demand the ECP issue a date for elections. Stressing that only people had the right to choose their leaders and make decisions for their future, he added: “We need new leadership … leadership which is not stuck in the past but thinks about the future. We don’t want ‘90s Pakistan or 2017’s Pakistan. We want today’s Pakistan… a modern Pakistan.”