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Nawaz ‘relying on something other than people’ to become PM: Bilawal

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  • Bilawal calls for new leadership to calm political instability.
  • PPP chief says he has concrete plan to provide free electricity. 
  • Questions of transparency will hover over 2024 elections: Bilawal.

LARKANA: Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Chairman and former foreign minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has said that Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) supremo Nawaz Sharif is apparently attempting to become the country’s prime minister for the fourth time via a backdoor.

“He’s certainly giving the impression that he is relying on something other than the people of Pakistan to become prime minister for the fourth time,” Bilawal said in an interview with Reuters when asked if he thought the establishment was backing Nawaz.

A member of Pakistan’s most powerful political dynasty, Bilawal spoke in the interview during a gruelling four-week campaign that took him to more than 33 towns, while other parties began canvassing just last week.

Youth appeal and ambitious plans to combat climate change form the core of Bilawal’s effort to become prime minister of Pakistan, which, if successful, would make him it’s youngest premier since his mother Benazir was in office.

As general elections near on Feb 8, the 35-year-old, a former foreign minister and scion of a family that gave the nation two prime ministers, called for new ideas and leadership to calm political and economic instability.

“The implications of the decisions taken today are going to be faced by the youth of Pakistan,” Bilawal said.

“I think it would be better if they were allowed to make those decisions.”

About two-thirds of Pakistan’s population of 241 million is younger than 30, while its prime ministers since 2000 have been older than 61, on average.

The Oxford-educated Bilawal is less than half the age of three-time premier Nawaz Sharif, 74, whom analysts consider the frontrunner in next month’s election, and former cricket superstar Imran Khan, 71, who won the last election in 2018.

The eventual winner faces the task of reviving a struggling $350-billion economy grappling with historic inflation and an unstable rupee currency that limits growth and job opportunities for the young.

The South Asian nation received a $3-billion loan programme from the IMF in July that averted a sovereign debt default in a standby arrangement set to expire this spring.

The PPP chief plans to tap into widespread anger, saying he has a concrete plan to provide free electricity and boost social safety programmes, despite fiscal constraints.

“What we propose is to completely restructure Pakistan’s development model, putting the threat of climate change front and centre,” he said, in a reflection of his party’s election manifesto.

Making a promise rare in Pakistan, it aims to ensure that funds exceeding $10 billion pledged last year go to fight climate change, after super floods in 2022 that displaced more than 7 million people.

If Bilawal won the election, subject to the vagaries of government formation, calculations show he could be just 25 days short of his mother’s age on entering office in 1988, at the earliest.

“I haven’t actually counted, but … I think she was the youngest,” he responded when asked how he rated his chances.

Bilawal eyeing independents’ support

However, his Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) has lost space to the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) of Sharif and the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) of Khan, who have been locked in a bruising political battle for more than a decade.

Positioning himself as an alternate to them in 2024, he recently called on supporters of Khan to vote for him while their leader is in jail.

In the 2013 elections, the PPP came second after Sharif’s party, garnering 42 of the 342 seats up for grabs. In 2018, with 54 seats, it was runner-up to the parties of both Sharif and Khan.

Bilawal ruled out joining hands with either contender, however, saying he preferred to form a government with independent candidates.

“You know, lots of independent politicians, probably the highest (number) in our history, are taking part in the coming elections,” he added.

Questions of transparency will hover over the 2024 elections, just as with earlier ones, he added, but he and his party hoped to win against expectations.

Most of the independents belong to Khan’s party, which lost the right this month to contest on a single platform, making the approaching election the most open in recent times.

But one analyst felt the role of prime minister might be a tough goal for Bilawal, saying his party had struggled to build its political strength.

“One might be tempted to look at Bilawal as a dark horse candidate for prime minister,” said Michael Kugelman, director of the Wilson Center’s South Asia Institute.

“But I don’t see him as prime minister material just yet,” Kugelman added. “The election will likely lead to a coalition government, and Bilawal could be in the mix for a cabinet-level position, but the top slot is likely too much of a reach.”

Pushed into the political fray as a teenager in 2007, after his mother’s assassination, Bilawal later inherited her party but steered clear of politics until he finished his education.

His father, Asif Ali Zardari, was elected president after Benazir’s death.

The PPP chief won a parliamentary seat in his first contest in 2018, which was followed by a 16-month stint as foreign minister, until August 2023.

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No “major breakthrough” in the opposition-led JUI-F and PTI meeting

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Maulana Fazalur Rehman stated that mending rifts in relationships and getting rid of resentment in an interview with the media in Islamabad with a team from the Tehreek-e-Tahafuz-e-Ayeen-e-Pakistan that paid him a visit.

While no significant progress was made at the meeting, all sides decided to keep in touch in order to plan for the future.

“A positive message,” according to the JUI-F chief, was received with open arms by the delegation. Taking a “united” stance on national issues was the primary goal of the meeting, he said.

Democracy is losing its appeal, and Pakistan’s parliament and constitution are losing their respect. In parliament, Maulana Fazalur Rehman continued, “we should have a single voice.”

Remarking on the event, National Assembly Opposition Leader Omar Ayub thanked the JUI-F leader for ‘warmly’ receiving the group.

We had a fruitful discussion in the meeting, he declared, urging the opposition parties to work with the PTI to “protect” the constitution.

Constitutional violations and a lack of a rule of law are the claims made by Omar Ayub. According to him, there was “no reason” why the police searched the PTI’s Islamabad central secretariat office.

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In the instance of illegal recruitment, Pervaiz Elahi is granted bail.

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The earlier-reserved court ruling was delivered by LHC Judge Sultan Tanveer Ahmad on Tuesday.

LHC had filed a post-arrest bail motion, according to the former chief minister.

On October 25, 2023, Pervaiz was taken into custody by the Anti-Corruption Establishment (ACE).

From June 1 to September 18, Elahi has been arrested in a number of crimes; the most recent one was reported by the Punjab ACE on September 18.

More: Pervaiz Elahi’s condition “deteriorated” in Adiala jail; he was hurried to PIMS.

In the Punjab Assembly, Elahi illegally hired 12 people for grade 17 positions, according to information provided by an ACE representative.

In the provincial assembly, the candidates were chosen through record-altering.

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The bail petition of Parvez Elahi in the Jinnah House attack case has been rejected by the ATC.

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A bail application filed by Chaudhry Parvez Elahi, a leader of the Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf (PTI) party, in the Jinnah House attack case has been rejected by an Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC) on the grounds of prematurity.

ATC Judge Arshad Javed announced the decision during today’s hearing.

The counsel representing Parvez Elahi contended that there was a significant likelihood of his client being arrested in relation to the Jinnah House attack case. It was stated that the ex-Chief Minister had previously been held in custody on judicial remand in other cases.

The petitioner requested the court to authorise the release of Parvez Elahi on bail in the Jinnah House attack case.

Nevertheless, the prosecution argued that the bail petition did not meet the necessary legal criteria, emphasising that Parvez Elahi had not been apprehended in connection with the case.

Considering these considerations, the court rejected Parvez Elahi’s request for release, stating that it was premature since he had not been arrested in the Jinnah House attack case.

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