PPP Demands ECP Issue Date, Schedule For Election Immediately

Bilawal says they will announce manifesto after election date is announced, rules out talks with 'militant' entities

 PPP Demands ECP Issue Date, Schedule For Election Immediately

Days after President Arif Alvi urged the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to issue a date for general elections and proposed it should be before November 6, a major political party on Friday demanded that the top poll body issue the date and schedule for elections.

"We were all of the opinion that to allay any confusion, the ECP should announce the schedule for the elections," demanded Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari on Friday as he addressed a news conference at the conclusion of a two-day meeting of the party's Central Executive Committee in Lahore.

Everyone knows our stand about the elections, Bilawal said. 

Earlier, at the beginning of the news conference, he read out the resolutions passed by the CEC of the PPP wherein they expressed concerns over the country's current economic situation, the ever-increasing prices of essential commodities, inflated power tariff and increased prices of petroleum products. 

He added that the CEC had demanded the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) immediately announce a date and schedule for elections in the country according to the Constitution. 

The CEC also demanded that the interim government in Punjab declare the flood-affected areas as disaster-hit. 

Solidarity was expressed with the minority community in Pakistan, and concerns were expressed over increasing terrorism in the country. Earlier, Bilawal had condemned the targeted bomb attack on JUI-F leader Hafiz Hamdullah.

Later, he responded to the questions from the media persons present. He said that it was not possible to repeat all the reservations expressed by PPP representatives from across Pakistan on issues such as a level playing field in the elections. He added that these reservations have also been communicated to former president and PPP Co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari to address them. 

Regarding PPP's strategy towards the upcoming elections, Bilawal -- who has launched the party's electoral campaign -- said they are still fine-tuning it.

"We have not reached any conclusion about our strategy regarding elections, and that is why we are demanding the date and schedule of elections in the country," Bilawal said. 

He maintained that once the schedule of the elections is announced, they will formulate a strategy. 

Broadly, however, Bilawal said that the PPP focuses on the entirety of the country. "We give importance to every province." 

"No one asks Nawaz Sharif or any other [politician] why they do not spend time in Sindh, why they do not spend a night in Balochistan or why they do not focus on Khyber Pakhtunkhwa," he pointed out. 

Bilawal recalled that the PPP was originally formed in the Punjab but was ousted through a conspiracy.

He added that a conspiracy was hatched in 2013 by General Ahmad Shuja Pasha, former chief justice of Pakistan Chaudhry Iftikhar and a political party, he claimed. 

Later in 2018, he recalled how General Faiz Hameed and another former chief justice, Saqib Nisar, conspired to keep the PPP out of Punjab and pick a certain political party.

He claimed that one political party suffered during its government because the PPP was kept out of Punjab. 

Bilawal said that the CEC discussed the constitutional point on elections and the stance adopted by the Election Commission. 

He added that once the election schedule is announced, all political parties will jump into election mode and present their manifestos. 

Bilawal said that the PPP will also present its manifesto to the people of Pakistan. 

"The PPP has always tried to strengthen the parliament and parliamentary institutions so that we can all benefit from its fruit," he said.

The PPP chairman added that he is very interested in Kashmir, Gilgit Baltistan, and its people. 

"I have given hope to the people, especially the youth of Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan," Bilawal said. 

"We all have a duty to give the youth a stake, not only in politics but also in the economy. We have to give up traditional politics," he said, noting that over 65% of the country's population is under 30 years of age.

"I am also going to be 35 this year," Bilawal noted, adding, "I have studied abroad and have seen the world. It is my understanding that we will have to engage the youth in politics and the economy of the country."

Bilawal maintained that they gave a stake to the women through the BISP. Similarly, he said they have to give the youth and the farmers a stake. 

Responding to a question, the Pakistan Peoples Party chairman said that the party is neither in any difficulty nor oppressed. 
"We have seldom witnessed a level playing field in elections, but I am hopeful," he said. 

"I trust my team. There is only one political party which is not afraid of going to the people, and that is the PPP," he said, adding that he is confident in his performance as foreign minister and inform the public about it. 

"I can tell the people about my performance as the foreign minister, my role during floods and then what I did for the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) issue," he said.

He added that they are ready to tell the people about their performance of BISP.

"We are ready and not disappointed at all."

In response to a question about the Supreme Court's verdict about the amendments his government had made to the NAB laws, Bilawal said that Justice Bandial was the last judge to be restored through a notification. Now, history will give its verdict on whether the restoration of the judiciary movement was beneficial. 

In response to a question about political dialogue with the PTI, the PPP chairman said that before May 9, they had tried to hold dialogues with every political force on elections. Still, the PTI decided to attack the Jinnah House, the General Headquarters (GHQ) and other army installations. 

"We can have a dialogue with those not involved in the attacks of May 9. Our doors are open for negotiations with non-militant entities," he said.

Progress of Sindh

Defending his party's performance in Sindh, Bilawal said that Sindh has progressed by leaps and bounds in tertiary health facilities.

He said that not only the people of Sindh but people across the country can benefit.

"We have a National Institute of Cardio Vascular Diseases (NICVD) in nearly every district headquarters. The hospital in Gambat is serving the people from all over Pakistan," he said.

Bilawal added that a children's hospital had been built there and collaborated with Dr Adeeb Rizvi to create a unit at the Sindh Institute of Urology and Transplantation (SIUT).

The PPP chief said that we made all of this possible in the short time since 2016.

The writer is a senior correspondent at The Friday Times with a focus on politics, economy and militancy.