Home Latest News Elections Only after Necessary Electoral Reforms, Says PPP’s Zardari

Elections Only after Necessary Electoral Reforms, Says PPP’s Zardari

Former president praises neutral role of armed forces, advises ‘out-of-box’ solutions to overcome economic crisis

by Newsweek Pakistan

Photo courtesy PPP Media Cell

Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari on Wednesday sought to dampen calls for early elections—a key demand of the ousted Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI)—stressing that this will only happen after the new coalition government undertakes necessary electoral reforms.

“Electoral and NAB [National Accountability Bureau] reforms are a key part of our plan,” the former president told a press conference from Karachi amidst mounting criticism over the perceived dithering of the incumbent government to take harsh economic decisions that could hamper its public support. If polls were held before the reforms were enacted, he warned, then any government that comes into power would face the same issues that have been troubling previous administrations.

Zardari admitted that the electoral reforms could take three to four months, or even up to six months. However, he stressed, the government could not go to polls without them, as it would defeat the entire point of the no-confidence motion to oust Imran Khan. “We do not want any selected person to come into power again,” he said, adding that he had discussed the issue with Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) leader Nawaz Sharif and was addressing media with his support.

“Parliament is supreme, and it has the authority to decide when to call an election,” he said. “Being a political and democratic party, we are not afraid of going to elections,” he said, noting that the PPP had been demanding it throughout the PTI setup but had been ignored. “No one used to listen to me when I would stress holding fresh elections when this ‘selected’ came into power,” he said, referring to Khan.

“What will PTI Chairman Imran Khan do by holding the elections early? What has he done in the last four years for the nation?” he questioned, adding that if the ousted prime minister truly believed his popularity had soared, he should wait and contest elections in Sindh—a PPP stronghold—and see how many votes he gets.

To a question, the PPP leader regretted that Khan had “misled” overseas Pakistanis through his rhetoric. “They [overseas Pakistanis] do not know the ground realities here,” he said, but stressed that the government was considering various ways to ensure their right to vote was ensured, including separate seats for them.

Referring to the reforms needed for NAB, Zardari said they must happen before polls to prevent any future government from using the body for the victimization of political opponents. “NAB has demoralized bureaucracy, resulting in them halting their duties out of fear,” he said. “We have to restore the confidence of bureaucracy by introducing reforms in NAB laws,” he added.

Accusing the PTI-led government of bringing the country to the brink of disaster through its economic policies, he said it was now time to think of the people. “He [Khan] says he was not there to control the prices of tomatoes and potatoes but we are here to ensure the provision of vegetables and such other commodities at reasonable rates. We have to find solutions and, of course, we will,” he said.

Economic solutions

The former president stressed that “out-of- box” solutions were needed to fix Pakistan’s economy at this critical juncture. However, he admitted, the new government needed some time to achieve this. Noting that the coalition setup had come into power less than a month ago, he said the situation would start to normalize after the International Monetary Fund (IMF) bailout had been revived.

Maintaining that some industries could be privatized, or targeted subsidies introduced for the most impoverished, he recalled that he had suggested to the PTI government in the National Assembly to ink a charter of economy with the then-opposition. However, he regretted, Khan had been unable to understand the offer or foresee the situation.

Army role

Reacting to Khan’s criticism of the Army chief over his adopting an apolitical role for his institution, Zardari asked: “Should I salute Chief of the Army Staff Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa for [keeping] the Army apolitical or should I criticize him?” He said the government hoped to ensure that all state institutions would remain apolitical and neutral in future.

He also slammed the PTI chairman for accusing leaders of the ruling collation of treason rather than stepping down gracefully. “Our prime minister, [Yousaf Raza] Gilani was removed but we did not talk against the judiciary—I was put in jail for many years even then we didn’t utter a word,” he said, adding that it was regrettable that even the PTI-appointed president, Arif Alvi, was resorting to “foul” acts in support of his party.

To a question on the diplomatic cable that the PTI claims “proves” it was ousted through a “foreign conspiracy,” the PPP leader said that while he had not personally read it, the ousted government was misleading the public over its contents. “They [PTI] drafted the communique themselves. There could be a diplomatic cable but probably it will not be sent by any state and the PTI should show proof if they have any,” he said, adding that it was common in Pakistan for people to believe that conspiracies were being hatched against the country. “That is, however, not always the case,” he added.

“[U.S. President Joe] Biden is my friend. He should have at least called me to congratulate on the no-confidence vote if America was behind the regime change,” he joked. “Had the Americans changed regime in Pakistan, they would have helped our new government in getting the IMF package restored. This [conspiracy] is a baseless narrative of the ousted prime minister trying to sell in the market but it is bound to bounce shortly,” he claimed.

The PPP leader also supported the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor as playing a key role in the development of the country. He said the current water shortage in Balochistan and Sindh should also start to decline as melting glaciers had started to boost flows in rivers.

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