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Friday April 12, 2024

Zardari to be president, Shehbaz PM as coalition govt deal finally struck

Bilawal announced that Shehbaz Sharif will be Prime Minister and Asif Ali Zardari will be President for the next five-year term

By Asim Yasin
February 21, 2024
(From L to R) Former PM Shahbaz Sharif, former Present Asif Zardari, and  PPP Chairmen Bilawal Bhutto during the press conference on February 20, 2024. — Facebook/Pakistan Peoples Party - PPP
(From L to R) Former PM Shahbaz Sharif, former Present Asif Zardari, and  PPP Chairmen Bilawal Bhutto during the press conference on February 20, 2024. — Facebook/Pakistan Peoples Party - PPP

ISLAMABAD: In a breakthrough on Tuesday night after marathon meetings, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PMLN) and Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) finally secured a power-sharing agreement for a coalition government with Shehbaz Sharif as prime minister and Asif Ali Zardari as president for next five years. However, sources claim, the PPP will not be a part of the federal cabinet either in the first phase or in the second.

PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, former President Asif Ali Zardari, PML-N President and PMLN President Shehbaz Sharif announced the long-awaited agreement at a press conference here.

Bilawal announced that Shehbaz Sharif will be Prime Minister and Asif Ali Zardari will be President for the next five-year term.

Bilawal said the coalition has enough numbers to form the government. “The party which is present in the name of the Sunni Itehad Council (SIC) does not have the required numbers,” he said.

He said the PMLN-PPP coalition is going to form the government with Shehbaz Sharif as the prime minister. Praying for the success of Pakistan, he said, “We are thankful to the PML-N for supporting PPP’s candidate Asif Ali Zardari who will be the joint candidate for president.”

Addressing next, PM’s nominee Shehbaz Sharif said that SIC does not have the required strength. “I am pleased to announce that the PPP and PML-N have sufficient numbers to form the government, adding they will continue (government) from where it was left.

Expressing gratitude to Asif Zardari, Bilawal and PMLN Quaid Nawaz Sharif, Shehbaz said the alliance will elect Asif Zardari as president for the next five years, adding, “I am also thankful to other allied parties MQM and PMLQ for their support as well as the PPP, and PMLN committees.”

He said the alliance has to revive the economy, fight against terrorism, and return the country to the path to prosperity. He said, “We have to eliminate the debt burden. This alliance brings together the young and the seasoned who will steer the country out of crisis.” He said the PPP had not demanded cabinet positions in Punjab.

Former President Asif Ali Zardari said their struggle is for Pakistan and to ensure prosperity for future generations.

To a question, Shehbaz Sharif said the PPP did not ask for any posts or ministries. “As far as the issue of constitutional offices is concerned, we will settle them with consultations and consensus.” To a question regarding the 16-month experience of the PDM government, Shehbaz Sharif said they managed to avert the hovering threat of default.

Bilawal said, “Compared to the past, we have announced the coalition and made decisions with consensus very quickly as compared to the previous tenures.” He also expressed the hope that the news of the PPP-PML-N coalition government will elicit a positive response from the markets.

When asked who would be the Speaker National Assembly and Chairman Senate, Bilawal said, “We have reached a breakthrough but will announce the offices later on as the people were not interested in these positions.” he said, adding they want the government formation process to complete.

To a question regarding PML-N leader Ishaq Dar’s nomination as Senate chairman, Bilawal replied that decisions were taken in the meetings, but they would be announced separately by each party. The leadership of both parties parried reply to the question whether the PPP would be part of the cabinet or not. However, the sources told The News that the PPP will not become part of the federal cabinet either in the first phase or in the second.

According to sources, earlier in a Tuesday night meeting between PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif and Chairman PPP Bilawal Bhutto Zardari at the residence of Senator Ishaq Dar, it was decided that the PPP will take the posts of the president, governors of Punjab and KP. Sources said the PMLN would nominate the governors of Sindh and Balochistan. It was also decided that the PPP and PML-N will have a coalition government in Balochistan while PPP will nominate its chief Minister.

The sources said the Chairman Senate will also be from the PPP while the Deputy Chairman Senate will be given to the PML-N. Sources said the Speaker of the National Assembly will be from the PML-N and PPP will have the Deputy Speaker.

Against the bonhomie earlier in the day, Bilawal saw a stalemate in the talks in the formation of the government. He said the PPP is steadfast in its philosophy and if the other side is not ready to change its stance, a dangerous stalemate is expected which will not be in the best interests of democracy, economy, federation and political stability.

Talking to reporters outside the premises of the Supreme Court after attending the hearing of the presidential reference on the case of Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, the PPP Chairman said, “If I have to give a vote to the PML-N, I will do it on my terms … I will not give it on the N League’s,” he said.

Bilawal attributed the delay in forming the government to the “non-seriousness of the dialogue committee”. He said that this delay was not causing him any harm but was causing harm to democracy in the country. “The faster this is resolved, the better it is for stability and the incoming government,” he said. Bilawal said that the PPP was “in no hurry” and was sticking its stance, adding that it would not budge from its stance. “If someone else wants to change their stance, there can be progress. If they are not ready to change it, I foresee a dangerous stalemate,” Bilawal said.

To a question about bargaining with the establishment for power, Bilawal reacted sharply, “You accuse me in front of local and international media without giving any proof. Now we are standing in front of the court. Tell me if you have any proof.”

“If Maulana or anyone else says this, then ask them but before accusing me, show evidence, if I meet anyone……Was I talking about democracy and the constitution or was I talking about myself.” “Journalists should present evidence before levelling any allegation against me,” Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said.

On the issue of talks with the PML-N on the formation of the government, Bilawal said the people are so aware that they did not give a mandate to any single party, which gives a message that they do not want a single party to face the challenges alone. He said the people are saying that the parties should get together, and this is known as ‘compromise’ in politics.

The PPP chairman said that he hopes that the justice which the daughter of Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto could not get will be provided to his grandson. Bilawal said that one remedy is the judicial reference but other avenues are also available. He said if there is no time limit for those aggrieved by murder to file a case, then an FIR against the conspirators too can be filed.

Bilawal said the chief justice has said in the hearing that the blot on the other institutions will also be washed through this opportunity.

He said that he was impressed by the intellectual calibre of the judges as they are looking at the case not only in legal terms with regard to law but also history, and the facts and figures are at their fingertips