Censored, contaminated democracy unacceptable: Bilawal
ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari on Thursday unveiled the PPP’s 10th manifesto with pledges to curtail hunger, rebuild the country’s economy and foster harmony among different institutions of the state.
The PPP is the first party to unveil its manifesto titled: “BB Ka Waada Nibhana Hai, Pakistan Bachana Hai” (Promise of Benazir Bhutto to be fulfilled, Pakistan to be saved) for the upcoming general elections scheduled to be held on July 25. Bilawal said the current economic situation in the country is “unstable” and “exclusionary”, parliament has been reduced to the status of a bystander and state institutions appear to be at loggerheads and there is a need to stop the drift that has resulted in the country being isolated in the world.
The main theme of the PPP manifesto is the creation of a new province in south Punjab, giving rights to the people of Fata, reversing the undemocratic steps taken by the PML-N government in Gilgit-Baltistan, reviving the textile industry, raising Pakistan’s issues on international forums and taking advantage of Pakistan’s large population under the age of 30.
The other main aspects of the Benazir Kissan Card, Bhook Matao Prograame (Hunger Eradication Programme), linking the minimum wage award to living wage, accountability of all, civil service reforms, internships graduate programme, quality and free education for all, legislative reforms, people’s poverty reduction programme, Benazir women agricultural workers programme, industrial policy for restructuring trade and industry, energy sector reforms, rationalising oil and gas policies, infrastructure policy frameworks, stated-owned enterprises (SOEs) reform and labour policy.
Along with his father and former president Asif Ali Zardari, Opposition Leader in the Senate Sherry Rehman, senior leader of the PPP Aitzaz Ahsan, President PPP Central Punjab Qamar Zaman Kaira, Secretary General PPP Syed Nayyer Hussain Bukhari and Secretary General PPP Parliamentarians Farhatullah Babar at the National Press Club, Bilawal said PPP will not accept censored and contaminated democracy. “Anti-democratic forces are engaged in conspiracies. But on the other hand, one cannot give respect to Parliament by remaining absent from it for years nor by cursing it,” he said.
Bilawal said the former government weakened the accountability institutions of the state, adding the previous Parliament remained a silent spectator at the time of crisis. “The state institutions appear to be at loggerhead and all institutions should work within their constitutional limits,” he said. He said the PPP’s manifesto is a pledge to deepen democracy by fostering harmony among the people, the people and state and among the institutions of the state and making the government accountable and answerable to the people by strengthening Parliament and other institutional framework.
The PPP chairman said the PPP will not compromise on national integrity and “our manifesto will make the rulers answerable to the masses. Our vision of peace, prosperity and progress for all our people, particularly those who have suffered injustice and exploitation through the decades,” he said adding: “We have been called upon to render sacrifices for the country and have never flinched.”
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said in the wake of violence and provocation, the PPP has pursued the path of reconciliation, even when the PPP leaders, workers and voters suffered injustices at the hands individuals. “Our hearts beat with the weak and vulnerable and we derive our will from the strength of the women and men of this land,” he said.
The PPP chairman said his party would withdraw all the actions taken by the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz government in Gilgit-Baltistan, adding the previous government weakened the accountability institutions of the state. “The elections in Azad Jummu and Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan will be held at the same time with the general elections in Pakistan,” he announced.
He said Pakistan is facing isolation despite rendering sacrifices of thousands of soldiers in the war against terror, adding the country has become paralysed. “The process of reforms in democracy never stops. It’s a continuous process,” he said. “We have to free Pakistan from the fear of poverty,” Bilawal said that under a pro-active foreign policy, his party would highlight the human rights abuses being committed by the Indian forces in the Held Kashmir. The“foreign policy should be rooted in economic diplomacy but unfortunately the country had no foreign minister for as many as four years,” he said. “We must have a realistic view of our internal challenges and address them for our own survival and not for external demands,” he said, calling the previous government’s lack of a foreign minister a reason why the world does not know Pakistan’s narrative.
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said his government would be for all, not the privileged few. He pledged to free the people from the fear of hunger, thirst and helplessness. Renewing his commitment to sacrifice for democracy, Bilawal said his party will strengthen Parliament and make the government and all state institutions more accountable. “We will build an economy that works for all people, “he said. He clarified that ‘all people’ means people of all faiths, ethnicities, genders, abilities, ages and political beliefs.
As part of the party’s economic reforms, he announced the PPP would introduce ‘bhook mitao’ food cards across the country if elected. “Our vision for peace and progress is for all people, especially those who have been ignored,” he said, stressing the need for sustainable growth and development and economic justice.
In his first election, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said he is presenting a practical solution to Pakistan’s problems and he will work to make Pakistan as per the one his mother Benazir Bhutto’s dreamt of. Bilawal equated terrorism and climate change, saying these are 21st century problems that know no borders.
Bilawal said if the water issue is not timely addressed, it will turn into a very acute problem for the country. “We built small dams in Jamshoro to address the water issue in the district.” He said if given power, the PPP would expand health facilities in every corner of the country and the PPP will introduce family health programme. The PPP leader announced to end the ban on student and trade unions in the country.
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said Benazir Kissan Card will be used for the delivery of various services as well as other engagements including direct credit subsidy to small farmers from Zarai Tarqiati Bank limited, subsidised fertilizer and electricity to small farmers, vouchers to sugarcane farmers guaranteeing payment at harvest and crop insurance scheme for small farmers.
On the economic front, the PPP manifesto suggested consensus building for a basic national economic reforms agenda in which a joint parliamentary committee of both the Houses of Parliament with representatives from all major parties will be constituted to prepare a basic national economic agenda which will incorporate points of agreement and consensus on issues of national economic importance to ensure cross-party commitment over broad parameters of reforms on taxation, government spending and public debt.
The PPP through its manifesto stated that the Federal Bureau of Revenue (FBR) will be restructured by turning it into three separate entities namely direct tax authority, sales tax authority and customs authority to avoid any administrative disharmony and to enable evaluation of the performance of each authority against their specified targets. The manifesto also advocated withdrawal of tax rebates for non-export oriented sectors.
Under ‘Bhook Matao Programme’ (hunger eradication programme), the PPP manifesto pledges that the food distribution system will be based on registration with the income Support Programme through local licenced dealers or government stores at the union council level and a computerised ‘Benazir Food Card’ will be issued to the eligible households after verification of identity and family composition by Nadra. The food distribution can also be used for the provision of subsidised or mandated fortified foods to the targeted populations.
Earlier, speaking on the occasion, former president Asif Ali Zardari said his party’s government did massive developmental work in its tenure. “We gave Gwadar port to China from Singapore. Our manifesto primarily deals with saving Pakistan,” Zardari said.