Chairman Pakistan Peoples Party, Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, addressing the National Assembly on Monday, said that he still remembers when he took the oath for the first time five years ago. He said that the term as well as the transition from the opposition to the treasury benches was his initial experience in the National Assembly and will be memorable.
Chairman Bilawal, while reflecting on his first speech in the National Assembly, said that it was a moment of pride for him to witness the plaque stating that the foundation stone of the National Assembly of Pakistan was laid by the late Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. “Along with the pride comes a sense of responsibility and duty to strive and carry the legacy of one’s ancestors forward,” he said. He said that efforts had been made to follow and build the narrative that they had inherited from Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Ms. Benazir Bhutto. “Not once did we resort to using abusive language to put our point across, and instead opted to use the democratic tools provided to us by the Constitution,” he said.
Chairman Bilawal said that since the first day when they called the ‘selected’ regime out for what it was, we had intended to regain the space that was lost by democratic forces, a continuation of their efforts from the 2008-2013 tenure. “Even when we were a part of the opposition, we tried to remain within the constitutional domain,” he said and added that they wanted to protest against the selected rule that was established through rigging, but even then, they were conscious of not taking a decision that brings even the slightest harm to the country and its democracy. “When the PDM was made and the long march was carried out, we stressed taking the democratic route, not staging sit-ins or allowing someone else to benefit from the situation,” Bilawal added. “This was also the time when we ousted a selected prime minister through the constitutional process of the no-confidence motion for the first time in the history of Pakistan,” he recalled. ‘This was a historic achievement and when we came to power, our purpose was to right the wrongs that had been done, strengthen civilian institutions, restore the supremacy of the Parliament and democracy,’ he said and added history would be the judge of whether they were successful in their efforts or not.
As someone who has experienced for generations the delicate dance between democracy and dictatorship in Pakistan, Chairman Bilawal said that it was the duty of both the government and the opposition to play their roles, albeit within their respective constitutional boundaries. However, it is unfortunate that upon coming to power, we encountered an opposition party that neither paid any heed to the Constitution, Parliament, and the country nor did it care for its workers or the people. This is the very same party that grossly violated democratic and constitutional boundaries while being in the opposition in a way that had never been done before. We did not resort to such politics even when the PM of the country was sent to the gallows or martyred. We did not cross the red lines even while facing dictators such as General Zia and Musharraf. When Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto was martyred, even then the PPP gave the country the slogans of ‘Pakistan Khappay’ and ‘Democracy is the best revenge’ so that the country could avoid any sort of chaos and harm.
Unfortunately, we witnessed an opposition that attacked the Jinnah House and military installations. We then had to take certain measures to establish the writ of the state to set an example. However, it seems as if the opposition is adamant about not learning a lesson and continues to adopt the same attitude, which is to engage in the politics of hate and division and to resort to forming personal grudges and vendetta against one’s opponents.
As the country is heading towards elections, political parties need to carry themselves in a manner that reflects efforts to allow for the situation to move towards reconciliation or allow the system to run smoothly. It is the PPP’s view that we need to bring on board all political parties, even those outside the Assembly, on a Charter of Democracy, be it the former version if not a new one. However, other institutions would need to be a part of this dialogue in which we would sit and decide whether WAPDA would be run by its federal minister or a Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. We need to settle on the rules of the game, as to decide which code of conduct we are to follow, the premise of which would not only be limited to the interactions between political parties but also among institutions.
While we were in the opposition, it was our main objective that all institutions operate within their constitutional domain. In the past fifteen or so months, this is one aim that we have not been able to achieve. As we head toward the elections, all political parties should consider how we can solve this issue. Would we continue dealing with the same issues that we did in the past? The past fifteen months were spent dealing with long marches, attacks, and the use of deplorable tactics to derail the government and resultantly, the progress of the country.
Chairman Bilawal said that in his statement a week ago, he had appealed to former President Zardari and Nawaz Sharif to take decisions in a manner that would make matters easier to deal with for him and Maryam Nawaz Sharif in the future, instead of becoming difficult to solve. Chairman Bilawal said that it seemed as if it had been decided that the next three decades of the country would be spent engaging in the same kind of politics that was seen in the past thirty years. He said that 65% of the population of the country, which was under the age of 30, was done with the politics of the past and was not willing to set its hopes on them or anyone else. “Our young generation is the asset of the country, and it is not only an appeal but a demand that we maintain the hopes and spirits of the 65% of the nation’s population,” Bilawal added. He said that they should not rob them of their hope because they would run and lead the country. “They should know that it does not matter which side of the benches they are seated on upon being elected into this House, they will resolve the issues of the people unitedly,” Bilawal concluded.”