LAHORE: President Asif Zardari and Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf reached the provincial metropolis separately on Friday night.
The two leaders are expected to stay in Lahore for a couple of days to kick-start their party’s election activities in the hometown of rival Sharif brothers where the Pakistan People’s Party has been showing a poor electoral performance for the last three elections.
Friday was the president’s first day at the bomb-proof Bilawal House that has area of several acres. Political pundits think that Zardari would stay here for some time. They also believe that he would play an active role in wooing the Punjab. It was being thought for sometime that the president would make Lahore the centre of all activities in future, particularly ahead of the upcoming elections.
President Zardari, who is also the co-chairman of the PPP, was received at the old airport lounge by the Punjab Governor Makhdoom Ahmad Mehmood, PPP Central Punjab President Manzoor Wattoo and other PPP leaders and government officials. The Punjab chief minister and senior members of his cabinet refrained from going to airport to receive the president on his third official visit to Lahore during the last four years. However, Punjab Minister Mian Mujtaba Shujaur Rehman, on behalf of the Punjab chief minister and his cabinet, was present at the airport.
PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari was also accompanying the president. The president left for the newly-constructed Bilawal House in Bahria Town in the suburbs of Lahore which has been gifted to him by a property tycoon.
PM Raja Pervaiz Ashraf was also received by Governor Makhdoom Ahmad Mehmood at the airport. He also headed straight to the Bilawal House, Lahore, from the airport where he joined an important closed-door meeting with President Zardari, Bilawal Zardari and the Punjab governor. The meeting was reported to be continuing till late in the night.
Earlier, journalists covering the president’s activities complained about the attitude of the guards.
Lahore News Desk adds: President Zardari, meanwhile, said the general election would not be delayed even for one day and the date in this regard would be announced soon after holding consultations with the political forces of the country.
He said this in his talks with PPP leaders at the Bilawal House, Lahore, and his telephonic conversation with federal ministers Rehman Malik, Syed Khursheed Shah and Awami National Party leader Asfandyar Wali here on Friday.
President Zardari said continuity of the democratic process would be maintained as all political forces wanted elections on time in the country. Zardari said the government was determined to eliminating the menace of terrorism and extremism from Pakistan.
Terming Karachi the financial hub of Pakistan, Zardari said protecting lives and property of the people was top-most priority of the PPP-led coalition government. He said lawlessness would not be tolerated in Karachi at any cost and directed the federal and Sindh governments to make a joint strategy to curb criminal elements in the city.
President Zardari said any decision on Balochistan would be taken by reaching a consensus with all the political forces concerned. He assured that the Balochistan issue would be resolved democratically.
Zardari claimed that soon the PPP flag would be seen hoisted atop all houses in the Punjab. He said the Bilawal House in Lahore would prove to be a fort of the Pakistan People’s Party in the Punjab and Bilawal Bhutto Zardari would guide the party workers from that house. The president called for accelerating the consultation process over the caretaker set-up for holding elections in the country.