ISLAMABAD - Pakistan People’s Party Chief Bilawal Bhutto Zardari is set to attack Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif for the alleged pre-polls rigging and Panama leaks scandal when he takes up the stage in Kotli today (Saturday) to practically launch the election campaign in Azad Jammu Kashmir.

The PPP chief aims to revive the chances of his party in the upcoming AJK polls amid a three-way contest between the PPP, the Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz(PML-N).

The PPP currently leads the government in AJK but there are low expectations of returning to power as the PML-N – being the ruling party in the Centre - seems on target to do better than the PPP and the PTI despite some damage due to the Panama leaks. 

Traditionally the ruling party wins the polls in the semi-autonomous AJK and the Gilgit-Baltistan. The PPP had won in both the AJK and the G-B during its tenure between 2008-2013.

A senior PPP leader said Bilawal would dig into the weaknesses of the Prime Minister and his government to improve the standing of the PPP in the AJK polls. “The Panama leaks definitely dented the PML-N and we can capitalise on it. Pre-polls rigging and the Panama leaks will be the main subjects of Bilawal’s speech (at the Kotli rally),” he added.

He said the PPP chief will also give his party’s programme for AJK in his Kotli address. “Kashmir has a special place in Bilawal’s heart. He dreams of its development,” he said. Another PPP leader said all arrangements had been made to ensure a massive rally in Kotli. “Thousands will be in attendance,” he claimed.

The PPP blames the PML-N government for pre-polls rigging. The party claims the visits of Prime Minister Sharif and his cabinet members before the upcoming elections were designed to attract voters.

The PPP believes announcement of development projects at this point was tantamount to buying votes. Recently, the incumbent lawmakers from AJK held a protest demonstration in front of parliament building. They demanded of Prime Minister Sharif to sack Minister of Kashmir Affairs Barjees Tahir.

The protesters led by AJK Prime Minister Chaudhry Abdul Majeed also accused the federal government of misusing funds of Kashmir Council for pre-poll rigging.

Majeed charged the Kashmir Council funds were being distributed among favourites which was an insult to the mandate of people. Earlier, Bilawal said his party will contest the AJK elections with full vigour. The PPP chief arrived in Islamabad this week after a few days’ stay in Karachi. He had been in the capital city for a couple of weeks before flying to Karachi. The main agenda for his latest visit was to launch a full-fledged election campaign in AJK.

Separately yesterday, Bilawal said that history had drawn heavy responsibility on the new Coordination Committees of the PPP and urged these bodies to work hard and close collaboration with the workers to generate vibrant organisations to meet the political challenges faced by the Party and the whole nation. “Being the torch-bearer of democratic struggle and values, the PPP stands out as the sole representative of the collective aspiration of whole nation in every nook and corner and segment of the masses,” he said while talking to members of the PPP’s Coordination Committee, Central Punjab, who called on him at Zardari House here.

Those who attended the meeting including members of the Coordination Committee for Central Punjab Raja Pervez Ashraf, Rana Farooq Ahmed Khan, Chaudhry Manzoor and Nadeem Kaira. President PPP Women Wing Faryal Talpur, Qamar Zaman Kaira and Political Secretary to the Chairman Jameel Soomro were also present in the meeting.

Bilawal said the Advisory Committees for Minorities will be formed for all the five Provincial Coordination Committees to coordinate and consult them on the issues related to minorities.

He said all the party events and meetings will be organised by the Coordination Committees until the induction of new organisations in the provinces. He also directed the Punjab Committee to raise the issue of peasants of Okara farms at every available forum.

Members of the Coordination Committee assured the Chairman that they would leave aside any personal liking and disliking while making their recommendations and proposals for the reorganisation and selecting the best team of workers to run the organisations in a new era, said a party statement. “The meeting lasted for 2:30 hours and deliberated upon all the issues related to reorganization process of the party,” it said.