ISLAMABAD - Pakistan People’s Party Chief Bilawal Bhutto Zardari Friday hinted of supporting the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf-led government in the coming years as he addressed the National Assembly for the first time since his election as member on July 25.

In his maiden speech in the National Assembly, Bilawal said if the PTI worked for the betterment of the country, “we will stand by their side.”

Unlike Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz leader Shehbaz Sharif who threatened to take the PTI-led government by the horns, Bilawal was much softer as he congratulated the PM-elect.

His speech was, however, not without satire. He reminded Imran Khan how he used to call people stupid and donkeys. “Imran Khan now you are the Prime Minister of all the Pakistanis. All those whom you called sheep, donkeys,” he contended.

Bilawal expressed disappointment over the sloganeering inside the house by the PTI and the PML-N lawmakers saying “this would have upset the people” who voted in the July 25 polls.

He said the people had not voted for the parties to perform ‘shows’ in the assembly rather they wanted them to work to resolve their issues.

Bilawal paid tribute to the martyrs of democracy who laid down their lives for the system –including his mother Benazir Bhutto and grandfather Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.

PPP Vice President Senator Sherry Rehman termed Bilawal’s speech ‘outstanding.’ The opposition leader in the Senate said: “Far above the partisan bickering of others, he set a tone that was both statesmanlike and promising, without pulling punches. Sounded like his illustrious grandfather (Zulfikar Ali Bhutto).”

PPP Secretary General Nayyar Bokhari said Bilawal’s address could be compared to any great leader’s speech. “He did not become personal. He spoke about democracy and parliament,” he remarked.

Earlier, the PPP played a silent spectator as the PTI and PML-N contested for the Prime Minister’s slot. The PPP abstained, a first in their history.

PPP Co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari opted to skip the PM’s election while other members led by Bilawal attended the sessions. There were also reports that a banking court had issued warrants of arrest of Asif Ali Zardari. The PPP Co-Chairman lawyer Senator Farooq Naek however, contradicted such reports and said that the court had not issued any such orders.

Zardari was also under pressure due to the arrest of Anwar Majeed, owner of the Omni Group, who is known as a close friend of the former President.

Anwar Majeed and his son Abdul Ghani Majeed were arrested by the Federal Investigation Agency in connection with fake bank accounts that were used for alleged money laundering. A Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar heard the case. Some analysts described the arrest as a ‘message’ to Zardari to stay away from the PML-N.

Even before the Prime Minister’s election, the PPP had announced to withdraw its support for Shehbaz Sharif. The younger Sharif was expected to give some fight to Imran Khan with the support of the PPP but it essentially became a one-sided contest. However, the score of 176 against the 172 required for simple majority was not the best of results for Imran Khan. He would have loved a ‘double century.’

Soon as the results were announced, the PML-N members launched deafening sloganeering forcing Speaker Asad Qaiser to suspend the proceedings after half an hour of struggle to control the situation.

Under a so-called understanding between the opposition parties, the PML-N, the PPP and the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal were to name the candidates for PM, Speaker National Assembly and the Deputy Speaker in accordance with their strength in lower house of the parliament.

PPP’s Khurshid Shah and MMA’s Asad Mehmood lost the contest this week for the Speaker and Deputy Speaker but almost all the opposition members voted for them making the result card look better. When it came to PM’s election, Shehbaz Sharif was far from close with 96 votes to his credit despite Imran Khan’s overall slim majority. More than 50 PPP votes would have made it a healthier contest.

Other sources said PPP was unlikely to confront the PTI-led government in the centre. Close aides of the Bhutto family said the PPP will not fight PML-N’s war against the PTI but try to promote its own agenda for a possible comeback in the next elections.

 

ZARDARI AIMS TO HAVE PPP-BACKED PRESIDENT

 

There were rumours that the PPP and the PTI were engaged in covert talks regarding the upcoming presidential election. Incumbent President Mamnoon Hussain’s five-year term will end on September 9.

Zardari, the sources said, wanted a PPP nominee or at least a PPP-backed candidate to replace Hussain as the President to stay away from the PML-N and the future cooperation.

The President is indirectly elected by the Electoral College - a joint sitting of the Senate, National Assembly and the provincial assemblies.

“The talks with the PTI are ongoing. There will be discussions about the presidential elections (September 4) with all the parties. Bilawal has already offered cooperation on the issues of national interest to the PTI. We aim to strengthen democracy. We had also supported the PML-N,” said a senior PPP leader.

 

 

Bilawal steals PTI’s show