ISLAMABAD  -  Pakistan People’s Party Chief Bilawal Bhutto Zardari will announce an ambitious party manifesto for the July 25 general elections today (Thursday, June 28), promising a new Saraeki province and change for the common man.

This will be PPP’s 10th manifesto in the last five decades. The earlier manifestoes were presented by Bilawal’s grandfather Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and mother Benazir Bhutto.

Both Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Benazir Bhutto won elections and remained Prime Ministers of the country. The senior Bhutto was controversially executed in 1979 and Benazir Bhutto was assassinated in 2007. Benazir Bhutto’s two brothers – Murtaza Bhutto and Shahnawaz Sharif – were also murdered.

Sanam Bhutto, the only surviving child of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, has supported Bilawal for his inaugural election. She however, remains apolitical.

A member of the PPP manifesto committee told The Nation that the party had promised a new province dividing Punjab. “A Saraeki province will be established when the PPP comes to power,” he said, citing the manifesto.

The PPP leader said that the issue of forced disappearances of the people was discussed in the manifesto committee meetings and it has been decided that when the party comes to power, “this trend will be eliminated.”

He added: “No one will be allowed to torture the people in custody. Those in custody should feel secure rather than being subjected to torture.”

The PPP leader said military courts will not be an option for the government if the PPP is voted to power. “Justice will not be rushed,” he added.

Separately, PPP leader Taj Haider, in-charge of the PPP Central Election Cell, alleged that a pre-polls rigging had been launched to defeat the PPP.

Addressing a news conference here with Barrister Amjed Hussain, Latif Akbar and Nazir Dhoki, he said the PPP had also faced rigging in the past. “This is not the first time that we are being subjected to the pre-polls rigging. We have been victimised earlier and we have made comebacks,” he maintained.

Haider said PPP co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari was jailed for undone crimes and later he was elected as the President, in 2008. “Who will compensate for the 11 years that Zardari spend in the jail,” he asserted.

The PPP leader said that the politics of turncoats should be laid to rest forever. “Politics is being crushed due to the turncoats. Then there are the unfair delimitations to target the PPP vote bank. Census results are already controversial. The delimitations are on ethnic grounds,” he pointed out.

Meanwhile, a four-member delegation from The European Union Election Observation Mission to Pakistan led by Michael Gahler met Senator Sherry Rehman, leader of the opposition in Senate.

The delegation briefed the PPP leader on their mandate and overall workings during the Election 2018.

Senator Sherry Rehman highlighted the importance of the presence of Election observers through such a huge electoral exercise as a general election in Pakistan.

“The people of Pakistan vest great hope in electing their public representatives. We hope in turn to raise the standard of governance and responsiveness to public needs each time a government is elected through an open democratic process. Ensuring a level playing field is a crucial norm for all political parties and candidates in the contest, and a process that is questioned either before, or on, or even after actual polling day is not going to have the stamp of legitimacy,” Senator Rehman said.

She added: “We hope that is not the case. Elections have been contentious in the past, and it is the duty of the Election Commission to ensure that all complaints are taken seriously and in due time. We are engaging and watching the electoral process very carefully, and hope that all stakeholders including the caretaker government will strive to make sure that every level of transparency and neutrality is brought to the exercise.”

The PPP leader said that the constitutionally guaranteed freedoms must be observed, as well as seen to be observed. “The right to free and open media is one of them. We have received complaints in the Senate Committees about blockages and intimidation of certain media outlets, including newspapers, and are concerned that such curbs on access to free media may cast a shadow on the state of fundamental entitlements in the country,” she said.

The current political situation in the country also featured in the discussion, as did the right of voters to exercise free choice as well the free will of candidates to stand by the political parties and manifestos of their choice.

Senator Rehman said that a peaceful , constitutional transfer of power through the democratic process is a powerful message of stability and directional change for Pakistan, and that she hopes that complaints of intimidation and pressure of candidates to change party loyalties does not become a norm that tilts the playing field in any particular direction. “We all welcome higher standards of transparency and justice in public life. It must of course be seen to be applicable all round,” she said.