December 12, 2023
ISLAMABAD – PPP co-chairperson and former president Asif Ali Zardari on Monday said that a delay of “eight to 10 days” in the general elections would make no difference, stressing that the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) had the constitutional authority to hold the polls earlier or later than its currently scheduled date of February 8.
While the ECP, in its Nov 29 statement, had rejected what it said were “baseless and misleading” reports about a delay in the upcoming general elections, remarks in the favour of a delay have surfaced from representatives of all major political parties except the PTI.
On October 21, Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl Sindh General Secretary Maulana Rashid Mehmood Soomro had said that the ECP should reconsider holding elections in peak winter months.
On Sunday, PML-N Khyber Pakhtunkhwa President Amir Muqam also suggested that elections should be delayed by “two to four weeks” due to the prevalent security threat and the weather conditions of the tribal belt.
Speaking on Aaj News show Faisla Aap Ka With Asma Shirazi today, Zardari clarified his stance on the subject, making it clear that the PPP would not be opposed to the idea of a small delay.
“Even if the polls are delayed — but by eight to 10 days but not more than that — there will be no difference,” he said. “The elections have to take place — be it tomorrow or the day after. They have to happen.”
He said that all the powers regarding the elections were with the ECP, saying that the electoral watchdog could bring forward or delay the election date.
“See there is the weather [situation] too. Firstly, elections were not held in Fata before. Seats from that region used to come through the Fata and Pata system. Now the weather there is not good and a war is also taking place,” he said.
Meanwhile, Zardari accused former prime minister and PTI supremo Imran Khan of registering illegal Afghans living in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa as citizens of Pakistan by issuing them ID cards.
“He (Imran) has got votes of Afghans registered by making their ID cards in KP,” he said. “That’s why he talks about the Afghans so much. He has made fake lists in KP where Afghans have been declared as Pakistan citizens and their names are in the voters’ list.”
The PPP co-chairperson doubted the PTI’s ability at a grassroot level of handling hundreds of polling stations in one constituency.
He said PTI candidates contesting in the elections were lawyers, adding that “those who are defending them will also be their [electoral] candidates now”.
Questioned about members of the PTI legal team being affiliated with the PPP such as Latif Khosa, Zardari said it was nothing unusual since politicians mostly “come from the PPP’s nursery”.
Zardari was of the view that his party also intended to educate the establishment.
“We have one house and if one of my children … is difficult I will try to work with them with love,” he added. “We have to work with the establishment and the stakeholders with love.”
As talk turned to the topic of the next prime minister, Zardari said: “At least the PPP can make the prime minister,” adding that “I made Shehbaz the prime minister — he didn’t have the [required] numbers but I completed them.”
He said the next prime minister could be from the PPP and said time would tell who it would be when questioned if it could be party chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari.
“Bilawal can be the [candidate] and I can be too … Khursheed Shah also says he can be made [the prime minister].”
Questioned about an “understanding” with PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif, Zardari said he had a talk on a phone call with him and nothing more.
Questioned about his remarks about Bilawal needing training, Zardari said they were “exaggerated” and his son held the honour of being Pakistan’s youngest foreign minister. “I don’t need to teach politics to Bilawal, he knows it,” the father added.
He also said he wished for Aseefa Bhutto Zardari to enter the electoral landscape and contest polls. He added that she currently managed duties pertaining to social media.