Former president and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Co-Chairman Asif Zardari said on Tuesday he would welcome all the political opponents who wished to contest the upcoming general elections against his party in early next year.
Addressing party workers in Ghotki, Zardari said that the PPP, with the support of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) led Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), brought down the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government not because of gaining power but because Imran Khan was unable to run it.
The PPP leader spoke to the PPP workers after the announcement of the PML-N’s electoral alliance with the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P). In his speech, Zardari appeared unfazed by the political development in Sindh.
“Those who want to contest against us, we say ‘Bismillah’ to them, our opponents stand in the election, we will welcome them,” Zardari said. “We don’t stop anyone from contesting. We have our own politics and philosophy and they have their own.”
The former president believed that without democracy and electoral contest the best results could not be achieved under a democratic dispensation. He also referred to his role in relegating the presidential powers to parliament during his tenure as the president from 2008-13.
At the outset of the speech, Zardari expressed the desire to speak to his workers in Sindhi or Seraiki languages. But, he said the people to whom he wanted to convey the message from the gathering would ‘cut it’ off if he spoke in those languages.
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He stressed that the reason behind launching the protest movement against then prime minister Imran Khan in 2022 was not aimed at gaining power rather it solely based on the bad governance and a lack of vision of the PTI-led dispensation.
“We wanted rights for the people and development of the country.” Zardari said, the [then] PTI government was neither capable of delivering it or making the [state] institutions and organisations under the government to deliver,” he added.
Yet, Zardari did not stop himself from a veiled criticism of the previous coalition government that took over the government after ouster of the Imran Khan government through a no-confidence motion. The PPP was also a major partner in the 16-month government.
He claimed that his advice was ignored by the previous PDM-led coalition government that caused $5-10 billion losses to the country. “Last time, when we were in [the PDM] government I tried a lot but they didn’t listen to my advice and we suffered $5 to $10 billion losses,” he said.
Sharing his vision, he spoke about harnessing wastewater, which is being released to the sea. The Country could earn $5 to $6 billion by treating the wastewater and utilising it for irrigation, fertiliser production and other purposes, he added.
“Only a practical leader [like me] can come up with such ideas,” he said. He recalled that the PPP raised slogan of ‘Pakistan khappay’ [we want Pakistan] after the assassination of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto in 2007, because “we know the country’s worth”.
The PPP’s co-chairman who is facing multiple cases and investigations by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), categorically stated that he was not leaving the country “because the party workers” want him to stay in Pakistan. “Not because of anyone else but the workers,” he said.
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Zardari again threw his party’s weight behind those Afghans refugees, who supposed to leave Pakistan or faced deportation. He questioned what would the returning Afghanis do in their country to eke out a living when their war-ravaged country had little to offer.
“This is a big problem. We have to think about their [Afghan] children and their next generations,” the former president said. “We have to understand their thoughts and we need to be able to do our part by making the arrangements.”
On the occasion, Zardari deplored Israel’s savage attacks on innocent Palestinians in Gaza. He said that just feeling the pain of Palestinians was not enough. “It’s not the time to limit ourselves to just feeling their pain. We need to practically give some help.”
Zardari emphasised that he knew well what was being done to the weaker Muslim countries. He reminded that during the PPP-led federal government, the Pakistani envoy did not vote in favour of waging wars against Syria and Libya.
“Some friends warned us that we are going against the history. I reply that history of 40 years’ relentless war rests next to us [Afghanistan],” he said. Pakistan also suffered as a consequence in terms of lives and the economic fallout for four decades, he added.
At the gathering, prominent political personality of the district, Ali Gohar Mahar announced his joining of the PPP. Senior PPP leader, including Syed Qaim Ali Shah, Syed Murad Ali Shah, Muhammad Bux Mahar, Syed Khursheed Shah, Nisar Khuhro, Khalid Loond, Awais Laghari ,Nadir Magsi were also present.