A day before his party’s “historic” long march, PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has said he only wanted immediate and transparent elections in the country.
"After the ouster of [Prime Minister Imran] Khan Sahib, the next set-up will have the mandate to amend or introduce electoral reforms,” said the main opposition leader while addressing a news conference at Bilawal House.
“All opposition parties agree that no matter which one of them forms the government with a fresh mandate, it will have the power to get the people out of the tough times they are currently in,” he added.
The comments seem to bridge a “gap” between the PPP and the PML-N over the timing of holding fresh general elections in the country in case the opposition’s anti-government agitation and no-confidence motion in parliament “succeed”.
Warning PM Imran of dire consequences, he maintained that there would be no need to stage a protest and bring a no-confidence motion in parliament if the premier stepped down.
“After the removal of Imran Khan, the interim set-up would have limited responsibilities, which include carrying out electoral reforms and holding transparent elections.”
Bilawal, who was accompanied by senior party leaders, claimed that the prime minister was “selected” through rigging and had no justification to carry on holding the post.
The PPP chairman claimed that it was the incompetence of the current government that it signed an agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) that went against the interests of the people.
“The burden of the government’s incompetence is being borne by the common man in the form of the rising prices of electricity, gas, fuel and medicines.”
The PPP chairman said the PTI-led government was undemocratic, but his party had adopted democratic measures to oust it.
“The long march is a democratic attack on this undemocratic government.”
Bilawal said senior party leader Taj Haider had prepared a comprehensive report on the 2018 elections, in which it has been pointed out how the electoral process was compromised and what role was played by which institution.
“We want the Election Commission [of Pakistan] to review this report and investigate it on their own before releasing it to the public,” he demanded.
“If the Election Commission does not address our concerns, then this report will be brought before other institutions concerned and the public.”
Talking about the long march, the PPP chairman said that it would be the longest one in the history of the country covering more than 2,000 kilometres.
It would start from Karachi and reach Islamabad passing through 37 cities. “We will reach Lahore from Sahiwal on March 5, Gujranwala on March 6 and the last phase of the march will begin from March 8.”
Responding to a question, Bilawal said all opposition parties would have to come together and be on the same page to remove the present “incompetent” government. He added that he wanted clean and transparent elections in the country as soon as possible.
“I don’t want the 2018 election to be replayed again,” he said. “Imran Khan wants to rig the election, that’s why he’s using tactics such as the Peca [Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act] ordinance.
To another query, the PPP chairman demanded that PM Imran’s “facilitators” should remain neutral and no institution should exceed its mandate.
“We hope that if the security establishment remains neutral as per the Constitution, then Imran Khan will be defeated in the no-confidence motion.”
Bilawal said the opposition parties had agreed on a one-point agenda -- the current “incompetent” government should be sent packing.
“[Imran] Khan Sahib has imposed a tax on everything, but there is no tax on the no-confidence motion. We will bring a no-confidence motion, and God willing, we will succeed.”
Responding to a question about the march announced by the PTI, the PPP chairman said the present government was ready to use every tactic to save its “tyrannical” rule.
Bilawal appealed to all parties, including the MQM and Grand Democratic Alliance (GDA) -- the ruling PTI’s allies in Sindh -- to keep their ministries on one side and the issues faced by the people on the other.
“I have asked the [Sindh] chief minister to talk to the MQM and GDA, because we believe in dialogue.”
Answering another question, he said the PPP had never asked its activists to take down the flags of any other party.
Nisar Khuhro, the PPP Sindh president, told The Express Tribune that the party’s long march would be the final nail in the coffin for the “Niazi regime”.
Former prime minister and PML-N Senior Vice President Shahid Khaqan Abbasi also shared similar views.
“There is no logic of forming a new government when the solution to the country’s ills [lies] is in fresh elections,” he told The Express Tribune.
He added that it would be foolish to form a new government once the opposition parties succeed in their no-confidence motion against PM Imran’s government.
The PML-N stalwart also dismissed the idea of finalising names of leaders of the opposition parties for top slots including the premiership, chief ministers, National Assembly speaker and deputy speaker.
“There is no need to finalise names.”
Sources in the opposition parties had said that the indecisiveness about snap polls or forming of a new government after ousting the incumbent government had lately become a subject over which they were having a continuous disagreement, causing the delay in the no-trust move.
Right now, the opposition parties are hopeful that the motion will be tabled within the first half of March.
It had emerged that the opposition had not yet reached a consensus on the next step if it successfully executed the no-confidence motion.
However, the PPP chairman’s statement reflects that the main two opposition parties are on the same page on the issue of holding fresh general elections.
The anti-government alliance – the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) -- had announced in the second week of February to bring a no-trust move against the PTI-led government. However, it has not yet been able to gain open support from the government’s coalition partners.
Despite the opposition’s back-to-back meetings with the PTI’s only ally in the Centre and Punjab -- the PML-Q -- the Chaudhrys of Gujrat have not changed their mind yet.
Keeping the opposition parties’ track record in view, it is noticeably clear that they have found it difficult to prove their majority even when they had edge on the treasury benches in both the houses of parliament.
The only time the opposition parties succeeded in turning the tables on the government with less number of votes on paper in recent times was when former premier Yousuf Raza Gilani defeated former finance minister Abdul Hafeez Shiekh in the Senate elections on the capital’s seat, forcing PM Imran to take a vote of confidence from the assembly.
On all other occasions since 2018, the government has managed to defeat the opposition even when it lacked the desired number of votes on paper.
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