Despite Zardari’s trust, Bilawal still doubts fair elections

PPP chief says people won’t accept any manipulation in general elections hinting at possibility of public protests

NOWSHERA  -  Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Chief Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has once again cast doubts at the electoral process, questioning the legitimacy of elections supervised by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), despite PPP co-chairman and former president Asif Ali Zardari has expressed the confidence that he sees fair elections in coming February. “Unfair elections would not effectively address the existing problems facing the country,” remarked Bilawal while addressing a party convention in Nowshera, Khyber Pakkhtunkhwa, on Monday. Leaving little room for ambiguity, Bilawal claimed that a plan is being made to make a person a four-time prime minister, seemingly targeting PML-N’s leader Nawaz Sharif. He expressed concerns that predecided outcomes could undermine the democratic essence of the electoral process. He accused his former ally (PMLN) of aligning with influential forces to secure a prime ministerial position. Asif Zardari the other day had dismissed speculations about the likelihood of rigged elections. He expressed the confidence in the Election Commission of Pakistan, asserting that the environment in the country is conducive for transparent polls. Bilawal, however, in yesterday’s address, emphasised the critical importance of a free and fair electoral process for addressing pressing issues such as the struggling economy and the surge in terrorism. He argued that lacking a people’s mandate could hinder the country’s ability to formulate clear stances and policies on the international stage, reflecting the aspirations of the public.

In an intriguing turn, Bilawal hinted at the possibility of protest politics in the event of alleged election rigging. He suggested a scenario where “one would assume the role of prime minister while the other would engage in the politics of protest,” hinting at potential postelection dynamics.

Bilawal also criticised the “ask-no-question” policy suggested by Nawaz Sharif to investors, cautioning against decisions that could violate people’s rights. Drawing attention to the November 16 meeting between Nawaz Sharif and key businessmen in Lahore, Bilawal urged businessmen to share their profits with the broader populace. Lastly, Bilawal called upon seasoned political figures with a 70-year legacy to contest elections based on their manifestos. He encouraged established leaders to present their plans through the democratic process, asserting that the electorate is well aware of the PPP’s proposed solutions to the nation’s challenges. 

The ECP has announced February 8, 2024, as the date for general polls across the country, with the PML-N also holding meetings with politicos to strengthen its position ahead of the polls. Bilawal warned that his party would not accept the elections if anyone interfered with the results, reiterating his demand for transparent polls. “Parties with a 2/3 majority say they have reached an agreement (regarding upcoming setup),” Bilawal said, without elaborating further about who had made a deal with whom. Pakistan has a history of parties not accepting results and alleging outside interference after the announcement of results, with the winning candidates saying that the polls were transparent.

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