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Friday February 23, 2024

PPP, PML-N trade barbs as Pakistan moves towards polls

“Mian sahib should ensure respect for the ‘vote’ (or people’s choice) and not disrespect it,” says Bilawal

By Web Desk
December 02, 2023
Activists of PPP (left) and PML-N attend their parties’ public rallies in this undated collage. AFP
Activists of PPP (left) and PML-N attend their parties’ public rallies in this undated collage. AFP

As the general elections draw closer, the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) — former coalition partners — on Saturday exchanged heated arguments again to woo their voters.   

PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari has been targeting old politicians, especially PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif, and is also blaming the party for inflation during the Pakistan Democratic Movement’s (PDM) 16-month stint.

“The PPP wants to attract anti-PML-N vote. So, politically, they can attract the anti-PML-N vote by targeting us. But we believe that the abusive culture that existed during PTI’s tenure has hurt Pakistan’s democracy,” PML-N Punjab President Rana Sanaullah told reporters in Lahore.

“We expect and hope that the PPP will keep in mind democratic values. However, if they believe that they have to criticise PML-N, they can. They can try to woo Punjab’s votes,” Sanaullah added.

In a fresh salvo at the PML-N, Bilawal in a press conference in Quetta asked former prime minister Nawaz to ensure that the sanctity of the vote is respected.

“Mian sahib should ensure respect for the ‘vote’ (or people’s choice) and not disrespect it,” the former foreign minister said, as he alleges that his party isn’t being provided the same space for electioneering as the PML-N.

The PPP has time and again said that the caretaker government — the people appointed to oversee electoral exercise till an elected government takes charge — favours the PML-N and isn’t providing a “level-playing field” to other parties. However, the interim set-up rejects these claims.

Both parties served as coalition partners — along with several other political parties — under the leadership of Shehbaz Sharif after ousting Imran Khan’s government. However, their ties have now faltered after their government ended.

The PPP has also upped the ante following the announcement of the general elections — scheduled to take place on February 8, 2024.

18th Amendment

While he is asking the PML-N’s PM hopeful Nawaz to retire from politics and blaming the party for several of the country’s ills, Bilawal is also claiming that the PML-N intends to roll back the provincial autonomy granted under the 18th Amendment.

“The people benefited from the 18th Amendment. Those in Islamabad are unaware of the nation’s problem. We believe that the 18th Amendment has not been properly implemented until now,” the PPP chief said.

In 2010, the PPP-led government enacted the 18th Amendment. It was a consensus document that led to provincial autonomy and addressed the grievances of smaller provinces. It also marked the end of the federal government’s dominance over subjects that rightfully belonged to the provinces.

While addressing the press conference alongside Sanaullah, PML-N Secretary-General Ahsan Iqbal said the PPP is spreading “needless fears” regarding the 18th Amendment.

“The PML-N intends to fully implement the 18th Amendment. We want to bring the 18th Amendment to its logical conclusion by strengthening the local government,” the former minister said.

A news report, published in an English daily, had claimed that the PML-N’s manifesto committee has received several suggestions, including the reversal of the 18th Amendment to change the distribution mechanism of finances among provinces.

However, the party rejected the claims, calling them baseless.