Pakistan: Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari campaigns for father as presidential election nears

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Islamabad: Pakistan People’s Party Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari continued his campaign efforts for his father on the eve of the presidential election, hosting lawmakers from the National Assembly and the Senate at Sindh House in Islamabad, Dawn reported.

The gathering included prominent figures from various parties in the ruling alliance, such as Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, Muttahida Qaumi Movement – Pakistan’s Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui, Istehkam-e-Pakistan Party President Aleem Khan, Balochistan People’s Party President Khalid Magsi, and Professor Sajid Mir. Notably, Pakistan Muslim League (Z) President Ijazul Haq was not invited to the event.

During the reception, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif reaffirmed the support of his party for PPP leader Asif Ali Zardari, the joint candidate for the upcoming presidential elections. Zardari expressed gratitude for the coalition’s backing and emphasized the importance of working collaboratively to address the economic and political challenges facing the country, according to Dawn.

Zardari acknowledged the daunting crises ahead but expressed confidence in the collective ability to overcome them. He said, “We know there are gigantic crises ahead, but we can jointly overcome them.” The event aimed to solidify support among parliamentarians who would be casting their votes in the upcoming election.

PM Shehbaz assured Zardari of the full support of his party’s lawmakers in both the central government and Punjab. Meanwhile, at a reception hosted by Zardari’s opponent, PkMAP’s Mahmood Khan Achakzai, the political landscape saw active campaigning on the eve of the election.

Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari also engaged with Punjab Chief Minister Maryam Nawaz Sharif and provincial assembly members earlier in the day. In a separate gathering, leaders from PML-N, PPP, PML-Q, IPP, and PML-Zia were present, and Bilawal and Maryam addressed the attendees. Bilawal emphasized the need for national reconciliation, calling for a departure from the divisive politics that had led to a significant rift in the nation.

“The PTI divided the nation, but we will find a solution to bridge this divide,” said Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, advocating for his father as a unifying figure capable of leading the country towards reconciliation. He expressed concern about the current state of political polarization, stating, “We will have to bury the politics of divide and hatred, and [political] parties would have to move forward together.”

Punjab Chief Minister Maryam Nawaz Sharif echoed the sentiments, criticizing PTI founder Imran Khan and outgoing President Arif Alvi for their perceived partisanship. She asserted that the presidency required someone like Asif Ali Zardari and criticized Alvi for allegedly protecting PTI’s interests and “abrogating the Constitution,” as reported by Dawn.

Maryam Nawaz Sharif went on to dismiss the outgoing president, stating, “He will not be remembered in good words,” and even referred to PTI as the “cartoon network,” supporting Bilawal’s characterization of PTI leaders as “cartoons.”

Highlighting the shared agenda of the coalition parties, including PML-N, PPP, PML-Q, IPP, and PML-Zia, Maryam Sharif stated that their collective goal was to address the country’s crises. She confirmed that all PML-N MPAs and allies would vote for Asif Ali Zardari in the presidential election, emphasizing that the MPAs had been briefed on how to cast their votes.

In a separate effort to garner support, a PPP delegation, led by former prime minister Yousuf Raza Gillani, approached JUI-F emir Maulana Fazlur Rehman. However, Fazlur Rehman categorically announced that his party would refrain from participating in the election and would not cast their votes for any candidate, Dawn reported.

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