'We had the numbers, how did you expect us to vote for the PML-N candidate?'

‘We had the numbers, how did you expect us to vote for the PML-N candidate?’

PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto addressing a press conference at Bilawal House in Karachi, on March 27, 2021. — YouTube screengrab

PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari on Saturday asked how he could tell his party leaders to vote for the PML-N’s candidate for Leader of the Opposition in Senate, Azam Nazeer Tarar, when the PPP had the numbers in its favour.

Bilawal was speaking following PML-N Vice-President Maryam Nawaz’s media briefing, during which she had publicly criticised the PPP for sacrificing everything for a “minor, inconsequential office.”

The PPP chairman said the PML-N’s candidate for Leader of the Opposition in Senate was a “controversial” choice. He was referring to the fact that Tarar had represented some of the accused in the Benazir Bhutto murder case. 

In his response to Maryam’s remarks, Bilawal regretted that “a political party was stubbornly issuing remarks and taking a hardline stance”, which was leading PPP leaders to believe that their party was being pushed against the wall.

“How do you expect, given that we have the majority [among the Opposition] in the Senate, that I ask my party members to make PML-N’s Azam Nazeer Tarar Leader of the Opposition and not Yousaf Raza Gillani?” he asked.

Bilawal said it was a parliamentary tradition and a historic fact that the single largest party in Senate had the right to get its candidate elected as Senate chairman or leader of the opposition.

“Everyone had aspired for Yousuf Raza Gillani to be the Senate chairman. There should have been no reservations in him getting elected as the Leader of the Opposition,” he said.

While responding to a question regarding the critical role of four votes from the Balochistan Awami Party in this regard, Bilawal said all should know how difficult it was to get the former prime minister elected as a Senator from the National Assembly.

“The victory of Syed Yousuf Raza Gillani on March 3 was a historical one,” he said adding it was the first defeat of the “selected regime” at the hands of the Opposition.

Aspirations for a united PDM

Responding to a question, Bilawal said he would like PDM to remain united as he had laid the foundation for it. “I do not want to harm [the coalition’s unity] so I will not respond [any further] to Maryam Nawaz’s statement.”

The PPP chairman claimed he had coined the term “selected” — and he knows when to use it, apparently in response to Maryam Nawaz’s repeated allegation that the PPP had been ‘selected’ for the Senate Opposition Leader’s slot. 

Bilawal advised the PML-N leadership to look within their own ranks and determine “who was giving them the wrong advice” to fight the PPP. 

“We can fight against this government only by staying together,” he said.

He said the opposition’s struggle against the election of Senate chairman would continue, as he thanked the Awami Nation Party (ANP) and Jamat-e-Islami for their support in getting Gillani the office of the Senate Opposition leader.

“Our struggle against the Senate chairman election will continue and we will use our legal right. We will file for a judicial review against [the IHC court] verdict,” he said.

He stressed that the Senate was a polling station and the proceedings on the day were part of the election process and can be challenged in a court of law.

The statement from the PPP leader came with the Islamabad High Court rejecting the party’s petition challenging the victory of Sadiq Sanjrani for the top office in the backdrop.

“We are of the view that the presiding officer gave a biased and controversial decision and the post was snatched from him [Gillani] illegally.”

Regarding the death anniversary of his grandfather and party founder Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Bilawal said the party has decided to cancel the rally in Rawalpindi due to the coronavirus pandemic that has wreaked havoc in Punjab.

The PPP leader also slammed the PTI government over coronavirus vaccinations, saying the Centre should help the provincial governments in this regard.

‘SBP ordinance attack on sovereignty’

Bilawal also termed the recently-promulgated State Bank of Pakistan ordinance as dangerous for the people of Pakistan.

“The ordinance is illegal and an attack on Pakistan’s sovereignty.”

He said that the PPP seeks for SBP to be independent and wants it to make decisions that are in the interest of Pakistan and the people of Pakistan.

“The ordinance doesn’t make the SBP independent; it makes it independent from Pakistan’s law, it makes it independent from the parliamentary and judicial oversight,” he added.

He demanded the government withdraw the ordinance.

Aide on petroleum ‘a scapegoat’

Bilawal also lashed out at the government over rising inflation in the country.

The PPP chairman said that the government made the special assistant on petroleum “a scapegoat” in the aftermath of the petrol shortage crisis, whereas it was the whole cabinet that made the decisions.

“We demand that all those ministers who were part of the decision-making process step down.”

He said that was “a historical scandal” and his party would not accept this “robbery”.

“Some individuals benefited from the petrol crisis.”

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