Chairman Bilawal addresses press conference after CEC meeting
Islamabad, 13 Feb: Chairman Pakistan Peoples Party, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said that the Pakistan People’s Party’s two-day long meeting of CEC has concluded. The current political situation of the country was discussed with respect to stability. Concerns about Pakistan reaching a crisis point were also under discussion.
The Pakistan Peoples Party’s principled stance is that it needs to help the country emerge from the plethora of crises it is faced with. The time has come yet again for the Party to raise the slogan of ‘Pakistan Khappay’. “The reality is that the PPP does not have a mandate to form the federal government and this is why, I will not be putting myself forward for the candidacy of the Prime Minister of Pakistan”, Chairman PPP said. There are two other groups that have more numbers in the National Assembly, the independent group and the PML-N. The PTI has announced that they will not engage in a dialogue with the PPP and that rules out the possibility of an independent and PTI-led government. That leaves us with PML-N which is the only political party in the National Assembly who have reached out to the PPP and invited us to join their government. The PPP has decided that while we are not in a position to join the federal government ourselves, nor will we be interested in taking ministries in such a setup, we also do not want to see political chaos in the country. We do not want to see perpetual crisis in the country. What are our options? If the PTI does not want our votes and the PML-N does not form a majority, and if I am not the PM candidate and this House fails to elect a PM and form the government, then we will have to go back for re-elections and this will lead to another perpetuation of this political crisis. Political stability will not return, rather political instability will increase. The consequences of this will be faced by the people of Pakistan, who at this moment, are facing not only a political crisis but also an economic one, the very real threat of terrorism and climate change.
The PPP contested this election on a manifesto, one that revolved around the issues of public importance including the Awami Muashi Muahida and our commitment to the people of Pakistan to put an end to the political instability and toxicity. To that end, the PPP will be willing to support on an issue-to-issue basis and in the case of important votes for the candidate of the PM of Pakistan, to ensure that a government is formed and political stability is restored. In that context, the PPP has decided that we will form a committee of members of the Party to engage with other political parties. As far as government formation is concerned and the question of political stability, the PPP will make a committee to engage with counterparts based on its views. We will make efforts to push the country in a direction which is the right of the Pakistani people, who participated in this election. They do not wish for further chaos. They are looking at their politicians to help them emerge from further turmoil.
The members of the CEC raised objections over the PML-N and our experience with them for 18 months. Members of the Party, especially from Punjab, KP and other provinces expressed their grievances over their issues not being resolved. Confidence-building hence is vital, which is why we will not only discuss government formation in the meetings with other parties, but also demand of them to address the PPP’s grievances.
Talking about the 2024 general elections, Chairman PPP said that unfortunately, as was the case in the past, including 2013 and 2018, this election too suffered from similar objections. The members of the PPP’s CEC too expressed their views regarding the level playing field, rigging and irregularities. It has been decided that the PPP’s CEC will collect all such complaints as far as this election is concerned. Moreover, despite these objects, grievances and protests over these elections, we will accept the results due in the larger interest of the people and the country. We would simultaneously want to address these issues so that the upcoming elections are not questioned. We will also use forums such as the Election Commission of Pakistan, the Parliament etc. During the election campaign, the CEC of the Party had raised concerns with President Zardari regarding the lack of a level playing field and he had ensured the meeting that they would be addressed. Unfortunately, the PPP has numerous objections despite that.
Chairman Bilawal said that he himself conveyed to President Zardari on behalf of the CEC to help address the concerns over the level playing field, given the evidence of irregularities. It cannot be that the same grievances are raised in every election. In the larger interest of political stability in Pakistan, this issue too should be addressed.
Chairman PPP said that he wishes to give hope and a message to the people of Pakistan, in wake of the dropping of points at the Stock Exchange and concerns of the international community and the people that the Parliament and a government will be formed; it is the forum where the issues of the people are resolved. The PPP will ensure, not for its own sake but that of the country that a government is established and we do not head towards a new election which plunges us into deeper chaos.
Responding to questions, Chairman Bilawal said that a clear mandate was not achieved. Neither the independent candidates supported by the PTI, nor the PML-N and the PPP are in the position to form their own respective governments. Elections do not take place easily; they demand the hard work and blood of our workers. If we head towards a re-election, we still foresee chaos and political instability. Moreover, there is also uncertainty regarding other political parties accepting those results. The message the people of Pakistan are sending is falling on deaf ears as far as the politicians are concerned. The Pakistani people gave a split mandate so that the country is not run on one entity’s whims alone. They voted in this manner so that the political parties would collaborate and solve the problems of the people. Unfortunately, the PTI today too is taking decisions that are not in the interest of the people. The people voted for them so that they would solve their problems. We are talking to the other political force, but they would have to listen as well. The PPP believes that it is our responsibility to help the people of the country and evade instability. This is the reason the PPP has raised the slogan of ‘Pakistan Khappay’ yet again.
Chairman Bilawal said that the PPP will not take ministries in the government; it will support the government on an issue-to-issue basis, its manifesto and important votes. We have formed a dialogue committee to convey our terms and conditions. Chairman PPP further said that he does not believe that he will be the Opposition Leader.
Chairman PPP said that the Party will make efforts to form the government in Sindh and Balochistan. Moreover, the PPP has the right to hold constitutional positions. When Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto had 17 seats in the National Assembly, the Party still nominated its candidates for constitutional posts. The PPP will definitely nominate its candidates for these positions. He further said that it is the prerogative of PML-N and other political parties to nominate their PM candidates. The Party will decide its nominees for these posts. “It is my personal desire that President Zardari is the PPP’s candidate for the post of the President, because the country is currently burning and if anyone has the capacity to help put the fire out, it is President Zardari”, Chairman PPP said. It is imperative for the country that President Zardari assumes this responsibility for the sake of the country yet again.
Answering a question, Chairman Bilawal said that the PPP’s stance has always been in support of the Parliament and the PM completing their terms. If the PML-N’s candidate engages in the traditional politics of hatred and division, then it will be very difficult for the federation and democracy to operate. Not only the PML-N, but all political parties including the PTI should not think for themselves, but the country. The country’s enemies would want to benefit from the current situation. We should engage in politics within the constitutional domain. Moreover, political forces need to realise that ‘it takes two to tango’.
Chairman Bilawal, while responding to a question said that while there may be clashes in policy of the PPP and other political parties, it is the beauty of democracy that both views are respected. If the decisions made by the Parliament are based on consensus, then it is hoped that the people will benefit. If we do not focus on the basic problems of the people, it will not only harm a political party but the entire nation.
Chairman Bilawal said that the PPP could have taken advantage of this political situation, and blackmailed the PTI and the PML-N. This is not the politics of reconciliation, but our love for the people of Pakistan that is compelling us to make this decision. We have to choose between our politics and for the system of the country to run, for which the PPP’s leaders and Jiyalas have rendered great sacrifices. As far as the Party’s space in Punjab is concerned, the conspiracy against the PPP is a continuation of the pattern in the past. It has been conveyed to President Zardari to address these concerns. Form 45s are received from the polling stations due to Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto’s efforts as she strived for electoral reforms to take place during Dictator General Musharraf’s rule. The consensus formula for the interim government was derived because the PPP introduced an amendment. Had the PPP not done that, then in 2013, it could have conducted the elections as it pleased. The PPP will not engage in the politics of extremism. “The people of Pakistan do not expect of me to take an extreme position solely to cater to my personal interests”, Chairman Bilawal expressed.
Chairman PPP said that the Party expressed its concerns over the elections before the media and also wrote to the ECP. We are relaying our concerns regarding the level playing field to President Zardari to be resolved since he had assured the CEC of it. This can be addressed by the political parties of the country conducting electoral reforms in a manner that leaves no room for objections in the next elections.
Chairman Bilawal said that the PTI has made it a habit to cry wolf in every single election despite the fact that it is a historical fact and reality that in the majority of those elections, the odds were not against them. We all remember the 35 punctures and how the country was destabilised and our fragile democracy was harmed through the protests and sit-ins. We also have concerns and there are forums for them to be addressed. Even if the seats do change a little bit, no political party will be in the position to form the government alone. The PTI themselves have said that they are not willing to talk to any political party. From this statement, it is obvious that they are not interested in forming the government and creating an environment of political stability. They would like to continue their extreme, populist politics where they wish to delegitimise as many democratic processes as possible. They believe it is to their political benefit to spread chaos in the country. The challenge of this sort of populism is not unique to Pakistan. We have now come to a point where even the democratic system of America is being challenged along the same playbook whether you are with or without facts on your side; you accuse and repeat the message of rigging to delegitimise the democratic process and institutions. Once the populists delegitimise these democratic institutions, then they manage to whip up a sentiment within the country that allows them to not only form the government but use it to undermine institutions. This is a challenge all over the world. Pakistan’s fragile democracy, where 50% of its rule has been under direct dictatorships, it is very difficult to cope with this populist challenge. This populist challenge must be met democratically and politically. The only answer to this challenge is more and more democracy. If the government that is to be formed decides to respond to the populist notions in a manner that it resorts to its own extreme and populist politics, then we are in a vicious cycle. The consequences of this approach will be borne by the people of Pakistan, especially in the wake of the economic and security crises. We have a host of challenges to solve. It will be our constant effort to convince all sides that politics should remain within the democratic space. We should consult ourselves in a manner that strengthens democratic and civilian institutions, not for our shortsighted political gains.
Responding to another question, Chairman Bilawal said the MQM adopted a violent approach. It is also a concern that militant elements of the Party were freed in the elections. Our candidates were subjected to violence, their offices and cars were burned. Whoever, despite all this, we will not compromise on the peace and progress of the city of Karachi. Our message to them too is not to engage in the politics of hatred and refrain from dividing the city based on linguistic politics.
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