KARACHI: Former president Asif Ali Zardari has said that some people have been calling for early general elections in the country, but elections cannot be held without first introducing electoral reforms.
“We have to introduce electoral reforms and reforms in the NAB (National Accountability Bureau) laws before going to general elections; but yes, the parliament is supreme and it has the authority to decide when to call an election,” he said at a crowded press conference at the Chief Minister House.
The PPP’s co-chairman was flanked by Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah, Information Minister Sharjeel Memon, Labour Minister Saeed Ghani, Local Government Minister Nasir Shah and Law Adviser Murtaza Wahab.
He said that being a political and democratic party, the PPP was not afraid of general elections, but before going into elections “we must introduce election reforms”.
“The overseas Pakistanis have no idea what the ground realities in the country are, but we have to steer it (the country) out of the quagmire in which the selected (former prime minister Imran Khan) has put it,” he said.
However, he said the parliament, with its collective wisdom, could decide to reserve seats for overseas Pakistanis in the assemblies.
In response to a question about a statement made by Defence Minister Khawaja Asif on the possibility of early elections, Mr Zardari said it might be his personal opinion but “I discussed the matter with PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif the other day and we agreed to call elections once electoral reforms are made”.
Mr Zardari said the demand for early elections was being made by the ousted prime minister, but the question is, when he (Imran Khan) could not deliver during his around four-year tenure, how he would deliver now.
“We are capable enough to steer the country out of the present financial crisis (just) as we had taken it out of crises after ousting Gen (Pervez) Musharraf. “When we had taken over the government, after Musharraf, the stock exchange was at 10,000 points but through our business-friendly policy it had reached 26,000 points by the end of our tenure,” Mr Zardari said.
The former president said he had some out-of-the-box solutions to improve the economy. “For example, we can float 26 percent share of the State Life insurance in the market to generate funds till the restoration of the IMF package,” he suggested. Similarly, the electricity transmission lines could be privatised to improve the national economy.
Turning to the issue of prices of petroleum products, Mr Zardari said: “I discussed this matter with Nawaz Sharif, and we agreed not to increase the prices of petroleum (products).”
In these days of price hike, people cannot afford to pay electricity bills, therefore solar panels may be provided to the people at subsidized rates for installation at their homes and for their tube wells. “This scheme would save electricity for industrial purposes,” he said.
He said the government that was ousted democratically completely failed to handle the economy; therefore nobody can sustain his family even on a monthly income of Rs 50,000. “We have to think about them; he (Imran Khan) said he was not there to control the prices of tomatoes and potatoes, but we are here to ensure the provision of vegetables and such other commodities at reasonable rates.
“We have to find solutions and, of course, we will do that; let the prime minister come back.”
The NAB was another institution that needed to be reformed so that it could not be used for victimisation of political opponents, said the PPP co-chairman.
In response to a question, the former president said that President Arif Alvi is a dentist, and he does not know how to play politics; therefore he is “playing foul”.
Lashing out at Imran Khan, Mr Zardari said that after his ouster the former premier is daring to target important institutions in his public meetings and statements. “Our prime minister, (Yousaf Raza) Gilani, was removed but we did not talk against the judiciary. I was put in jails for many years. Even then we didn’t utter a word,” he said.
“Instead of saluting Gen Bajwa for declaring his institution as apolitical, he (Imran Khan) has turned against him,” he added.
Answering a question about a suicide attack that was carried out by a Baloch woman, the former president said he was shocked to learn that a `daughter’ took such an extreme step after being brainwashed.
About the foreigners who perished in the attack, Mr Zardari said: “They were teachers and teaching Chinese language at the Karachi University which was a good service,” he said.
“The development of Gwadar and operation of its port would usher in new vistas of development and prosperity in the country in general and in Balochistan in particular,” he said.
Mr Zardari said that he had suggested to the PTI government on the floor of the National Assembly to sign a ‘charter of economy’ with the opposition/political forces but he could not understand the offer and foresee the situation”.
Talking about water shortages, he said that standing crops were “turning pale” but now the glaciers have started melting and the shortage would come to an end shortly.
The former president said the ouster of the “selected government” had become necessary “because it was the question of our survival, the survival of 300 million people and the survival of Pakistan”.
He said that MQM would play its role in resolving national and provincial issues. “They want to work with political forces for resolution of all the outstanding issues,” he said. Their governor would be appointed shortly, he said.
Replying to a question, he said he had not read the ‘letter’ that Imran Khan was quoting frequently. “His narrative is a bubble of hot air and it would fizzle out by itself,” he said.
Had the Americans removed the previous government, the Biden administration would have helped our new government in getting the IMF package restored. “This is a baseless narrative of the ousted prime minister (who is) trying to sell it but it is bound to bounce shortly,” he said. He said the population of Pakistan had gone up to 300 million.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2022