Party chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari says anti-government protest will begin in Karachi and conclude in federal capital
Pakistan Peoples Party Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari on Thursday announced that the opposition party will commence an anti-government long march on Islamabad from Karachi on Feb. 27.
“Deteriorating economic conditions have worried people, who are fed up of the incompetent and inept rulers and want to get rid of them at the earliest,” he told journalists after a meeting of the PPP’s core committee. “Therefore, we have decided to launch a long march against the government from Feb. 27. It will start from Mazar-e-Quaid [in Karachi],” he added.
Ahead of the long march, he said, the PPP would organize rallies at the divisional level to show solidarity with farmers who have been protesting a fertilizer shortage that risks endangering next year’s wheat crop.
Criticizing the government’s economic policies, he alleged the PTI had “surrendered” to international organizations and placed the country’s economic autonomy “at stake.” Referring to the State Bank of Pakistan (Amendment) Bill, which was tabled in the National Assembly last month as part of “prior actions” required to revive a stalled International Monetary Fund (IMF) loan facility, he said it also endangered the central bank’s autonomy. “The State Bank will not be answerable to Parliament or any courts,” he claimed, adding that the PPP was working on a legal response to the legislation.
On the supplementary finance bill that the government tabled alongside the SBP bill, Bhutto-Zardari said he expected the PTI to “bulldoze” its passage. He said PPP parliamentarians would protest outside the National Assembly whenever the mini-budget was put to a vote, adding he hoped all opposition parties would join it in trying to block the passage of the legislation.
Of the planned long march, the PPP chairman said it would proceed from Karachi to Islamabad “no matter what,” adding that the party would present its demands after reaching the federal capital.
To a question on why the PPP was organizing a separate long march to that of the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM—scheduled for March 23—Bhutto-Zardari said he had not been consulted about the multi-party alliance’s plans and they were free to follow their respective strategies. He claimed he was under pressure from his party to launch an anti-government drive at the earliest, as the public could no longer wait for the ouster of a government that had brought the country to the brink of an economic disaster. He stressed that, regardless, the more forces that take to the streets against the government, the better response they could expect.
“The PPP’s stance is very clear on Imran Khan’s selection,” he said, adding that he welcomed a recent statement expressing the security establishment’s neutrality in politics. He said history was witness to the role of the establishment in politics, and emphasized that the party wanted “all institutions” to remain neutral.
To a question, Bhutto-Zardari said the core committee could not take any decision on moving a no-confidence motion against the National Assembly speaker. “We demand fresh, fair and transparent elections in the country because the only solution to the problems of the people is democracy, democracy and more democracy,” he said. “We demand the Election Commission of Pakistan take action against the PTI, which hid its foreign funding for seven years,” he added.