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ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) co-chairman and former president Asif Ali Zardari, who made a surprise appearance at the party’s power show in the federal capital on Tuesday, caused many to wonder if he wanted an early ouster of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz government when he said the rulers would “concede defeat” before the installation of a caretaker government to be set up before the general elections next year.
“They want to put blame [of their failed economic policies] on the caretaker government, but they will concede defeat before it. We will also try that they concede defeat before time,” Mr Zardari said while addressing the public meeting.
He criticised the PML-N government’s economic policies in his speech.
Unlike the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) and some other opposition parties demanding early elections in the country, the PPP has always stated that it wants to see the present government complete its five-year term so that the elections can be held on time.
When contacted to seek an explanation, PPP leaders expressed their inability to paraphrase or interpret Mr Zardari’s remarks. They said since Mr Zardari had made an extempore speech, therefore, they could not elaborate as to in what sense the former president had uttered these words.
PPP holds public meeting in Islamabad, first since 2013 general elections, to mark golden jubilee
This was the first public meeting that had been organised by the PPP in the federal capital after the 2013 general elections. A large number of charged party workers from Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Azad Kashmir attended the public meeting held at the Parade Ground, where the PTI had already arranged two public meetings.
Prominent among those present on the stage were Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Syed Khursheed Shah, Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah, former prime ministers Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani and Raja Pervez Ashraf, Sherry Rehman, Qamar Zaman Kaira, Chaudhry Manzoor Ahmed and Farhatullah Babar.
Mr Zardari, who had arrived in the capital city on Sunday night, was not scheduled to speak at the public meeting. Some PPP leaders and the organisers of the event had categorically stated many times that Mr Zardari would not participate in the public meeting which the party had organised to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the party’s existence and that PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari would be the key speaker.
A number of PPP leaders, when contacted, also expressed their surprise to see Mr Zardari sitting on the stage with Mr Bhutto-Zardari and other party leaders. One of the party office-bearers claimed that the party had made the decision that Mr Zardari would also deliver the speech during an informal meeting on Monday. He admitted that only few top party office-bearers were aware of this development.
Mr Zardari in his speech called former prime minister Nawaz Sharif “godfather”, a term used for Mr Sharif by one of the judges of the Supreme Court in their July 28 verdict in the Panama Papers case.
“Mian Sahib has emptied the treasury,” he said, alleging that the government was not presenting correct economic figures. He claimed that one US dollar in actual term was trading for Rs127, but the rulers were hiding it.
He also targeted PTI chief Imran Khan in his speech. Calling the cricketer-turned-politician Jaali (fake) Khan, the PPP co-chairman said that he was unable to understand politics.
He said dictators had no future and that was why former military dictator retired Gen Pervez Musharraf was hiding in a foreign country and could never return to Pakistan. He said that changes in the country would now come only through the ballot.
The former president said the PPP had twice saved the PML-N government from falling, but now it would not save it. “We will not save their democracy. We will bring our own democracy,” he said vaguely.
Mr Zardari said his party wanted to have good relations with neighbouring Afghanistan. He said Afghanistan should realise that Pakistan was itself a victim of terrorism.
He said the PPP would make no compromise on the Kashmir issue and would never allow India to continue its occupation of the territory.
While highlighting the achievements of the previous PPP government, he said that as the country’s president he had made the parliament all powerful.
Mr Zardari said he did not want to say anything about judges.
PPP chairman Bhutto-Zardari as usual read out a written speech in which he presented the historical background of the party, the achievements of the past PPP governments and the future programme for the upcoming general elections.
The young PPP chairman said his party’s government in Sindh had launched projects worth billions of rupees in all sectors, including water, infrastructure, education and health. He claimed that the Sindh government had built some 40 dams in the province besides constructing a number of river bridges and establishing hospitals in Sukkur, Larkana and Hyderabad.
Mr Bhutto-Zardari said Pakistan could not make any progress without democracy. He said the PPP would make Pakistan a “true social democratic country” and introduce reforms in police, judiciary, agriculture and the civil service.
In an apparent reference to recent protest sit-ins by religious parties, Mr Bhutto-Zardari said he was deeply shocked to see the writ of the state getting eroded. He said the PPP would establish the writ of the state after coming into power.