LARKANA/GARhI KHUDA BUX - Former president Asif Ali Zardari , who recently returned from an 18-month self-exile, yesterday revealed his promised surprise – which turned out to be not as much impressive as the hype it had created in the media.

The co-chairman of Pakistan People’s party announced that he and his son , party chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari - would contest elections to be a part of the current Parliament and ‘teach’ Nawaz Sharif ‘certain things’.

Addressing a huge gathering at Garhi Khuda Bux on the 9th death anniversary of his late wife, former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, Zardari said he would contest elections from Nawabshah while Bilawal would be a candidate from Larkana.

“I will contest the election on my sister’s seat and Bilawal on Soomro sahib’s seat (in by-elections),” he told a charged crowd of PPP supporters in his first major appearance alongside his son in three years.

PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari also delivered a fiery speech, warning Nawaz government of the party’s preparations for a ‘long march’, saying that not even a single demand out of the four he had made had been met.

“Principally we have decided that we have to start preparing for a long march… I will begin making visits around the country to get my four demands met,” Bilawal said.

He asked party workers to start preparing for the march but did not announce a specific date for it. He also said the party has yet to debate the matter in its Central Executive Committee meeting.

Bilawal had earlier threatened the government that the party would launch a long march on Dec 27 if the central government failed to meet their four demands: First, passage of the draft Panama bill; Second, immediate appointment of a permanent foreign minister; Third, reconstitution of the parliamentary committee on national security; and Fourth, implementation of the resolution on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor passed by a multiparty conference.

Zardari in his speech said Bilawal’s demands from “you [PM] are democratic; he has not threatened to take to streets or to attack democracy in the state”.

Further addressing to the prime minister, the PPP co-chairman said, “I am not coming to the Parliament to topple you; we only intend to teach you certain things, to consult with you on national issues.”

But he warned, “We have sacrificed much for the sake of democracy and politics to save Pakistan. We will not leave this Mughal emperor [Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif] to rule.”

The ex-president continued, “Mian Sahab we gave you this democracy as a sacred trust. We made every decision with your input, through consensus. It is a pity you seem to have forgotten your promises today.”

He said, “We have fought dictators, but never raised our voice against the military.”

He also criticised PM Nawaz Sharif for his cordial ties with his Indian counterpart saying, “Mian Sahab have you ever thought of the children in Kashmir as to what do they feel when you have luncheons with Narendra Modi?”

The PPP leader said his party has no objection to an Ehtesab Commissioner picked by the Supreme Court. “We are not afraid of courts,” he said, and demanded that “the case in which Babar Awan’s licence was cancelled should also be reopened”.

Zardari also demanded that the Supreme Court decision on Panamagate be brought to the floor of the Parliament and be vetted by all political parties.

“We would like to see you and your judges go down in history as respectable individuals, not as people who twist the law for their own gains,” he added.

“This is our right. We will protest, exercise our democratic right and go to the parliament . Go to the courts and the bar councils, and talk about what is happening and what should be happening,” Zardari said.

Bilawal in his speech said that the mindset that Benazir had fought against all her life was still there and needed to be eradicated. He said that after assassination of Benazir, the country was vulnerable to division but Asif Ali Zardari saved the state as well as the PPP. He said he wishes to reorganise his party.

Panamagate

Bilawal called for the PM to present himself for accountability and allow passage of the Panama bill in the National Assembly.

Despite the premier’s assertions that the party is free of scandal, Bilawal asserted PML-N is embroiled in scandals. “Do you think us simple? That we don’t know you at all?” he questioned.

“The opposition in the Senate has passed the Panama bill. If you obstruct its passage in NA,  you will have to face the opposition’s protests,” he warned. “On the one hand, you want to present yourself for accountability, but on the other, you continue to obstruct the Panama bill in National Assembly,” he said, adding his party won’t approach the apex court without the passage of the bill.

“The courts have never delivered justice to us [the PPP],” he claimed. “Will they provide justice to the people of Pakistan?” he asked. “This is why we want to get this bill passed and [then] go to the Supreme Court,” he said.

PML-N has failed

The PML-N has failed on almost every front, he claimed, adding that he could not maintain silence over threats to national interests.

“The interior minister is threatening people instead of resigning,” he said, accusing Chaudhry Nisar of meeting with people from banned outfits. “The world wants to call us a terrorist state, [and yet] people in your [Nawaz Sharif’s] cabinet facilitate terrorists,” he alleged.

Further addressing the PM he said, “If something were to happen tomorrow, you can run away from this country, but the 20 crore people of Pakistan must stay here.” He added, “My parents have taught me to respect my elders. But that does not mean we cannot disagree on our politics.”

CEC meeting

Later in the day, the Central Executive Committee of the PPP meet in Naudero and endorsed Zardari’s decision to seek election for his own and his son’s entry to parliament , according to the party spokesperson.

PPP leader Farhatullah Babar told media that the supreme forum of the party also deliberated the proposed long march against the federal government. The committee has reposed complete trust in the leadership, he added.

He said the announcement of PPP leadership to join assemblies is due to their distrust of the policies of the Nawaz government. The meaning of their Go-Nawaz-Go slogan is Go-Nawaz Policies-Go, but if the prime minister himself resigns or the PML-N government is dislodged as a result of the opposition pressure then they would be ready for the elections.

He demanded Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar to resign, saying that the National Action Plan is not being implemented.

Talking to media, Qamaruz Zaman Kaira said Fata should be included in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

According to party sources, some party leaders at the meeting also suggested Zardari to himself assume the position of Leader of Opposition in the National Assembly after his election.

They said the CEC has decided to run a vigorous anti-government campaign and has tasked Khursheed Shah to contact other opposition parties for this purpose.

Monitoring Desk adds: Before the CEC meeting, two MNAs of PPP tendered their resignations to enable Asif Zardari and Bilawal contest bye-elections on their seats and enter the parliament .

According to SAMAA, Ayaz Soomro and Azra Fazal Pechuho handed their resignations to the party leadership after Zardari’s announcement to join the parliament .

Soomro was elected from Old Larkana, NA-204 and Azra from Nawabshah, NA-213 constituencies. Soomro said their assembly membership was the party’s trust.