ISLAMABAD - The Pakistan People’s Party is optimistic to win enough seats in the National Assembly to become ‘irresistible’ even if they do not beat the two main rivals – the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf – in the July 25 polls.

The PPP seems down in Punjab but has shown improvement in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan as the general election approaches.

A close aide to the Bhutto family told The Nation that the PPP was hopeful of winning ‘good enough’ seats - comparable to the PM-N or the PTI.

“You will see we will not be far behind if at all we are behind them. While we believe we can form the federal government, we will be irresistible for anybody who tries to form the government. This will be our victory,” he said. The PPP leader said that Asif Ali Zardari and Bilawal Bhutto Zardari were upbeat that the party had a chance if the candidates in Punjab can mobilize the voters.

“Punjab is the key. We are focusing on it. Bilawal and Zardari will visit the province in the coming days to muster support for the PPP candidates,” he said. He said that the PPP leadership sees a coalition government after the July polls. “No single party will be able to form the government on its own,” he quoted Zardari as saying.

On Monday, PPP chief Bilawal submitted his nomination papers for NA-200, Larkana-I. Earlier, the PPP awarded tickets to candidates for the general election 2018 on national and provincial seats. Zardari will contest elections from NA-213 Benazirabad constituency. After submitting his nomination papers, Bilawal said the PTI had become the master of U-turns.  “They promised to end the hereditary politics but have taken a big U-turn again. We are fighting against the people who have deceived the nation,” he said.

Zardari had set sights on the general polls after defeating the PML-N in the Senate chairman and deputy chairman elections in March. Zardari had cobbled together all the opposition parties including bitter rival, the PTI, to defeat the PML-N in the March 12 Senate chairman and deputy chairman election.

PPP-backed Sadiq Sanjrani and Saleem Mandviwalla were elected as the chairman and the deputy chairman of the Senate, despite the PML-N’s claims of enjoying majority’s support in the Upper House of the Parliament.

The defeat was a shocker for the PML-N that launched investigations to find the ‘silent rebels’ who voted for the rival candidates. The Senate victory gave a push to Zardari’s campaign to make a comeback to power.

Earlier, Zardari said that the PPP had also played a role to bring PML-Q’s Abdul Quddus Bizinjo as the Chief Minister of Balochistan. The former chief minister had played a key role to bring the PPP and the PTI together in the election for Senate’s top slots.

In 2013 elections, the PPP did badly in all other provinces other than in Sindh – where they led the provincial government. Since the national elections, the party has been struggling for revival as Imran Khan-led PTI tried to fill the vacuum.  The party was nowhere in the contest in the last local governments’ polls held in Islamabad and the provinces - except in Sindh.

Senior PPP leader Senator Sherry Rehman said that her party was excepting to win the 2018 polls. Speaking to The Nation, she said: “The PPP is strongly placed for a leadership role in the next election.” The people of Pakistan, she said, “need a leadership that focuses on the country’s urgent economic and foreign policy crises, not just a defence of personal brand.”

Zardari believes even 30 National Assembly seats from the 140-plus on offer in Punjab could give the party a realistic chance to lead a coalition government in the centre. Bilawal, however, has higher expectations and insists on even forming the provincial government in Punjab.  PPP leader Natasha Daultana, a candidate from Punjab’s NA 163 constituency, said that the PPP will do ‘much better’ in the province than the 2013 polls. “Last time, we were the victims of rigging. This time, the situation is much better. We hope to clinch seats to improve our overall tally,” she said.