Battleground Punjab: PPP swings into election mode

Zardari says his party will contact all political groups to ensure free polls in 2018


Asif Zardari addresses PPP activists in Lahore. PHOTO: SHAHBAZ MALIK\EXPRESS

LAHORE: The PPP, which had received a humiliating drubbing from the PML-N in the last parliamentary vote, appears to have swung into the election mode, though the polls are almost a year away. And the party’s primary focus is on reclaiming the ground it had lost to the PML-N in its bastion because it knows whoever wins Punjab will form the next government.

The PPP has often called the credibility of the 2013 election into question. On Sunday, PPP Co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari reiterated the rigging allegations, saying that the returning officers (ROs) had ‘managed’ the previous polls. “Last time were in fetters and shackles,” he said while referring to threats from Taliban militants which didn’t allow the PPP to campaign freely.

“This time, however, we are free – we are in the electoral fray,” Zardari told party workers in Lahore. “We will not agree to the posting of ROs for the upcoming elections,” he added. “The PPP will consult all political parties in order to make sure the elections are transparent.”

The PPP co-chairman said his party would send delegations to all political parties in an effort to evolve a mechanism to hold free and fair elections in the country, particularly in Punjab. He hinted that all his three children — Bilawal, Bukhtawar, and Aseefa — will be in the race.

Recalling the lost glory of his party, Zardari said Lahore used to come to a grinding halt whenever Benazir Bhutto, the slain PPP chairperson, visited the city. “We’ll make it happen again,” he vowed. “Looking at the passion and vigour of our workers, I can see that we are ready for another term,” said Zardari whose party had ruled the country between 2008 and 2013.

Separately, the PPP co-chairman said border management with Afghanistan with mutual consultation was critical for addressing the issues of militancy and terrorism and for peace in the region. “Proper securing of borders with mutual consultation will put an end to allegations of cross-border incursions of militants that has vitiated relations between the two brotherly neighbours,” he said in a statement.

Zardari said fencing the Pak-Afghan border in Bajaur and Mohmand agencies has already begun. “It is unfortunate that relations between the two countries have plunged to new lows in recent times,” he said, adding that the two countries needed to make sincere efforts to overcome mistrust and suspicions.

“Border management with mutual consultation has long been delayed,” Zardari said, adding that the decision could no longer be delayed. “A decision delayed is not a problem avoided, it is a crisis invited,” he added. He also voiced hope that the move to fence the border would be welcomed by all those want an end to militancy and to the counter-productive allegations of cross border incursions.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 27th, 2017.

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