SUKKUR: President Asif Ali Zardari on Sunday predicted that the next chief minister of Punjab would be from the Pakistan People's Party (PPP), and that the party would rule the entire country in the aftermath of the upcoming election, forming governments in all the four provinces.
Addressing a select group of party office-bearers and reporters at the residence of PPP leader Manzoor Wasaan in the Kot Diji town of Khairpur, the president said, “Our reconciliation policy will continue. It has panicked our opponents.”
The president added that his party had always made sincere and genuine efforts to stabilise the situation in the Punjab, and he now planned to spend more time in Lahore and other key cities in the Punjab so as to remain in close and direct contact with party workers in the province.
President Zardari on Sunday maintained that the PPP was fiercely against engineered elections: “I assure you that elections will be held on time [and they will] be free and fair. We don’t want any rigging,” he promised.
He also claimed that if it had not been for him, Shahbaz Sharif's government in the Punjab would not exist. He explained that he continued to support the Sharif brothers for the sake of democracy, while they in turn continued to victimise the PPP workers. “If Shahbaz Sharif is the Punjab chief minister, this is only due to me; otherwise, he wouldn’t have been there. We will win the coming elections with a big mandate all over the country and all chief ministers will be from the PPP. In the future, there will be a PPP worker as warned. “Had I wanted, I could have refused the Punjab government to Mian Nawaz Sharif even,” he added.
President Zardari termed Sindh the PPP’s pillar of strength, and said the government had initiated mega projects for the economic relief and development of the province. He also said that the PPP believed in a democratic system and had never used backdoors to come into power. “All efforts will be made to ensure fair and free elections without any element of rigging,” he said. He further added that a strong bond of friendship existed between the PPP and the masses, and that this would remain intact during the forthcoming election as well.
Responding to criticism leveled against the incumbent government, President Zardari said, “There have been conspiracies against our government but we have faced them with dedication and the support of the masses.” He added that the present leadership was being targeted through what he termed “TV politics,” adding that certain elements simply enjoyed criticising the government sans justification on television talk shows.
The president told the gathering that he had tried persuading his wife and former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto to return to Dubai after she survived the first attack on her, but she had refused and instead told him, “My people are waiting for me.” President Zardari asserted that the killers of Bhuttoism would perish forever, and that the “Jeay Bhutto” slogan would resonate from every corner of the world.
The president also said that Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Shaheed Benazir Bhutto were still alive because of the faith of the people who refused to bow down to dictators, and termed himself as Zulfikar Bhutto’s “spiritual son.”
President Zardari directed party workers and lawmakers to kick-start their preparations for the upcoming general election, and stressed that supporting the PPP was tantamount to supporting Pakistan. The president also maintained that party youths and workers should not expect government jobs from the party and should instead work hard to find other opportunities for themselves.
“This is not a party of jobs, but we consider politics as [a form of] worship. I have no government jobs to give you, nor should you expect any,” he told the crowd. “Though our economy is weak, it is still moving on despite the global meltdown. Very soon the woes of the public will come to an end due to our people-friendly policies,” he added. “The country is now self-sufficient in food and exporting wheat as it was importing wheat when the PPP came into power four and half years ago.” The president said he was aware of the problems being faced by the masses, and in particular the electricity, water and gas shortages, but assured the gathering that steps were being taken to resolve these problems.
Commenting on the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP), President Zardari said that the main aim of the scheme was to provide help to the needy and to empower women so that they could lead honourable lives. “With the support from the BISP, the women of poor families are [now] playing an important role by supporting their families,” the president said. He further announced that the government had decided to increase industrialisation to create more jobs for the unemployed.
Referring to the sacrifices of the PPP, the president said that the leaders of the party had sacrificed their lives to ensure progress and prosperity for the country, and that he himself had chosen eleven years’ imprisonment despite many opportunities to be released from jail through compromises and backhanded deals. “We are not afraid of jails,” the president asserted. “I have experienced the scorching heat of prisons for years and the heat of politics can’t compare to it.”
He also added, “They snatched Gilani [from us] but I have given them another party jiyala,” therein referring to Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf.
Sindh Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah and PPP leader Manzoor Hussain Wasan also addressed the public gathering. Afterwards, the president met with party workers and discussed various issues pertaining to health and development projects in their constituencies.
Later, in an interview with the Saudi newspaper Okaz, President Zardari said that the Pakistani government was striving to strengthen its relations with Saudi Arabia in all fields. He maintained that relations between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia were steadily acquiring a strategic nature because of their historical and Islamic depth. “I am pleased to learn that Khadim Haramain Shareefain King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz plans to hold an emergency OIC summit on the 27th of Ramazan to discuss issues of concern to the Muslim Ummah,” he said. “The initiative taken by His Majesty is indeed most commendable and we hope the emergency summit will not only identify most critical issues facing the Ummah but also suggest practical ways to address them.”
In response to a question, President Zardari said, “The problems facing the Ummah are complex and varied, and call for a combined effort of all Muslim countries to join hands in finding a solution. It is indeed most thoughtful of King Abdullah to have offered to host such a conference.”
He further said that Pakistan looked forward to participating in the summit, and that the Saudi king enjoyed a special place in the hearts of the Pakistani people who would never forget the assistance provided by Saudi Arabia during the floods and other dark chapters in the country’s history.
The president also expressed his grief and sorrow over the demise of the sister of senior journalist and former APP Managing Director Muhammad Riaz. In his condolence message, the president prayed to the Almighty to grant the departed soul eternal peace and to give the bereaved family the courage and fortitude to bear the loss.
Afterwards, President Zardari met with Larkana and Qamber Shahdadkot party workers and office bearers at the Naudero campus of the Aiwan-e-Sadr and heard their problems and complaints. He also presided over a high-level meeting of the Larkana Division overseeing development work. The president was briefed about progress on the construction of the Mazar-e-Shuhda at Garhi Khuda Bux Bhutto as well.