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LAHORE: PPP chairperson Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari has expressed optimism that the joint candidate of the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) for the Senate chairperson election will emerge victorious because the opposition parties will collectively challenge the PTI-led ruling coalition.

The PPP chairperson said this while speaking to reporters after calling on PML-N leader Hamza Shehbaz at his Model Town residence on Sunday. Both the senior opposition leaders during their meeting exchanged views on the current political scenario while Bilawal congratulated Hamza on the victory of PDM candidate Yousuf Raza Gilani in the March 3 Senate elections.

To a question how the PDM would ensure its senators vote for the opposition candidate and not defect as had happened during the vote on a no-confidence motion moved by the opposition against Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani in 2019, the PPP chairperson said: “Lessons had been learnt from the past.”

“We have learnt quite a bit from the last Senate chairman election; if we hadn't, we would have lost the National Assembly secret ballot election,” he said, referring to Gilani's victory on the coveted Senate seat from Islamabad. “We won there and it is our full effort that we challenge [the government] together so the win is of the PDM."

Bilawal said that everyone wants to get rid of ‘Wasim Akram Plus’ and an ideal Chief Minister of Punjab.

He added that contacts were being made with the senators elected in the March 3 polls to request them to vote for Gilani in the Senate chairman election. Gilani himself had already requested most of the senators to vote for him, he said.

During Gilani's tenure as the prime minister, the PPP chairman said the Chaudhry brothers, who are an important ally of the PTI-led government, had also been allies of the PPP government.

It may be mentioned that after staging an upset in the Senate elections, the opposition parties have managed to retain their majority in the Upper House of Parliament and they are now hopeful of getting the top offices of chairman and deputy chairman for which elections through secret balloting will be held on March 12.

Punjab’s opposition leader Hamza Shehbaz in his remarks said the objectives of the PDM were not limited to a long march or a no-confidence motion in the short term. Instead, he said, it aimed to correct “the destruction caused in this country in these past three years”.

He said the people of Punjab faced issues such as a shortage of medicines or mounds of trash lying on roads while crop production of cotton, wheat and sugarcane was either at its lowest point or had significantly reduced. “The state of the economy and of inflation is in front of you,” he regretted.

He said the PML-N and the PPP had “learned a lot” from the Charter of Democracy, because of which “we moved forward with good traditions for 10 years. There were mistakes but we learned from them.” However, he lamented that in the last three years a culture of "rowdiness, cursing and misbehaviour" had become prevalent citing noisy parliament sessions and the Saturday’s incident outside the parliament where PML-N leaders were allegedly manhandled by PTI supporters. "These things are not good for democracy and Pakistan,” Hamza said.

The PML-N senior leader said because the PTI had enjoyed being in government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa for 10 years, its loss in the Nowshera by-polls along with losses in Sindh by-elections to the PPP indicated that the “people have buried this false slogan of change”.

The Punjab opposition leader added that the PDM member parties had accepted Gilani as their joint candidate for the Senate chairman "from the heart". He praised Gilani as a leader who had participated in politics for decades and earned his stature.

According to him, Yousaf Raza Gilani's win on the Senate seat had resonated not just within the parliament but even with the “pushcart driver and the labourer”. “We have to continue to take the parliament and the nation along with us. We will continue our struggle in the assemblies too and go amongst the people. The logical end of this is that we will show a better Pakistan to the people of Pakistan,” he added.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021