Ready for an early election as well
Pir Haider Zaman Qureshi is the Central Secretary Finance of the Pakistan Peoples’ Party (PPP) and Member of the Central Executive Committee (CEC). Mr Qureshi comes from a political family of Mian Channu, Punjab. His father, Makhdoom Pir Arif Zaman Qureshi, has been elected to Punjab Assembly several times.
Mr Qureshi has served as Senior Vice President PPP, Punjab from 2011 till May 2016. He was Central Deputy Information Secretary PPP and Member CEC PPP from 2010-2011. He has been a member of PPP internal executive committees on policymaking, media, agriculture, economy.
DNA talked exclusive with him about PPP’s campaign strategy and the general buildup to the next election.
Q: Finally, after spending much of this electoral cycle in the wilderness, PPP’s election campaign has begun to take some sort of shape. Yet we still hear little beyond the usual rhetoric – “we will retake the government and senate”, etc. Could you explain your strategy a little more vividly please?
Haider Zaman Qureshi: This is a very relevant question. I would like to negate this misnomer and misconception that PPP has spent four years of electoral cycle in the wilderness. Being Pakistan’s only federal party and custodian of constitution and democracy we played the role of a responsible and mature opposition party. We gave a tough time to the government in Parliament on a host of national issues, bills and stalled efforts of PML-N to bulldose privatisation transactions and doling out state assets to friends and cronies.
We exposed the government on scams and scandals like Euro Bond, LNG deal, PIA privatisation, regulatory authorities, fudged tax revenue figures, falling exports and increasing trade gap, foreign policy particularly Kashmir and AfPak policy failures. We built consensus on CPEC, Protection of Pakistan Act, military courts, NAP, etc and consistently put pressure on PML-N. We supported the Supreme Court investigation on 2013 General Election. PPP acted as a bridge and conduit in the honourable return of PTI into parliament and forced the government not to accept resignations. We led the opposition on Panama Scandal, drafted TORs and 70 Questions.
We feel PPP has now enough arsenal to take to the masses with respect to failed promises of eradicating load-shedding, mega corruption scandal, sold out India centric foreign policy, figure fudged falling economy, unemployment, struggling agriculture and textile sectors. We can now draw comparison of PPP’s five years with PML-N. In Punjab where PML-N has ruled now for almost a decade, the mess of ‘Showbaaz’ will be exposed, from “Sasti Roti” to Afsana Housing, to Metro Corruption, to Orange train, to Quad e Azam solar and Nandipur scam, to fake medicines in government hospitals to fake stunts in cardiology centers, to crippling state of farmers of wheat without Baardana and sugarcane growers without payments to doctors, nurses and pharmacists on the roads. Proper and meaningful exposure of poor governance and corruption will help PPP regain lost ground in Punjab from PML-N.
Q: Politics, they say, make the strangest bedfellows. But not so, apparently, in the case of Imran Khan and Asif Zardari. Now the opportunity to add momentum to the anti-PM protest is lost. How are you adjusting?
HZQ: The PPP leadership firmly believes that historically democratic governments can only be forced to succumb to demands of opposition if the entire opposition is united. Unfortunately in the last four years all opportunities of uniting were lost due to stubbornness and inflexibility of the PTI leadership. It is Nawaz Sharif’s good luck that PTI’s political blunders and immaturity divided the opposition. Now post-Panama verdict again the opportunity is so ripe to unite the opposition under the single agenda of #GoNawaGo.
With the flexible, accommodating, politically astute leadership of PPP, formation of a grand alliance is a possibility and we are hopeful this will give much needed impetus to the anti-PM protest. Even otherwise PPP is quite capable of dislodging the Nawaz government or forcing PML-N into early elections.
Q: Zardari sahib has resorted to what he does best – wooing electables, especially who had left the party embittered, back to the PPP. How well has that worked so far?
HZQ: PPP being Pakistan oldest political party fully understands ideology based politics. Other political parties either don’t have an ideology or merely pose to have one. However Pakistan’s polarised election dynamics have over the years realigned the electoral landscape, which has created personality or electable specific constituency pockets, particularly in rural areas where a combination of ideology and personality matters in order to win a seat. Most of the so-called electables are old PPP members, some of whom swayed with time to PML-N or PTI, however after being frustrated at the hands of other party leadership’s autocratic attitude and fake promises, they are approaching PPP for return.
Q: PPP’s attacks on the PM’s – and his family’s – corruption have not impressed many, mainly because of the party leadership’s own suspicious financial track record. Do you feel people trust Mr Zardari when he promises to bring back looted national wealth?
HZQ: The PPP leadership has always been subjected to political victimisation, politically instigated cases of corruption, swayed court verdicts, etc. Our prime ministers are hanged or sent home while others are not even summoned. Starting from Shaheed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, Shaheed Benazir Bhutto to President Asif Ali Zardari, every member of PPP leadership has been physically targeted over frivolous and politically motivated cases. Zufiqar Ali Bhutto was subjected to judicial murder for being the voice of the masses, President Asif Ali Zardari bravely faced all fake cases for 11 years and Syed Yousaf Raza Gillani was convicted for merely upholding the constitutional provisions and lawfully protecting the dignity and sanctity of the office of President of Pakistan. Despite bravely facing and going through the rigorous of litigation, jails, harsh treatment meted out at the hands of dictators not a single case was either proven or a conviction verdict handed down against President Asif Ali Zardari or any PPP leader.
On the contrary PM Nawaz Sharif and his entire family have been badly exposed in Panama scandal and the facade of honestly, hard-work and integrity of the House of Sharif has been damaged beyond repair in the eyes of the public. The people will draw comparisons between perception of fictitious corruption allegation against PPP with Supreme court declaring PM Nawaz Sharif Godfather of corruption and not Sadiq and Amin.
Q5. Your opponents say that not only is PPP just day dreaming about winning Punjab, its own position in Sindh might be precarious because of its record of bad governance. Could you list some of your provincial government’s successes in this cycle?
HZQ: Our opponents said prior to the 2013 election that PPP would be routed in Sindh, in fact based on our performance in Sindh, PPP got more seats and won constituencies it traditionally lost to opponents. People of Sindh believe and trust PPP as being their sole voice in the federation dominated by Punjab based parties. Sindhis believe PPP is the only federal party that believes in a strong federation and rights of federating units and that’s why as a result of 18th constitutional amendments and NFC award, the vision of devolution and greater provincial financial and administrative was achieved by PPP and greatly damaged by PML-N in its tenure.
PPP has built numerous hospitals and universities in rural Sindh, substantially improved the highway and farm to market road network, invested in Thar and given thousands of jobs to youth and reduced unemployment. The Sindh Revenue Board is the only tax authority in the country whose yearly sales tax and other tax collection is growing by 25pc while it has the lowest tax rates which are business environment friendly. Sindh has been the pioneer in computerisation of land record, both urban and rural. Sindh was first government to geo tag and register madrassahs and modify their curriculum as per NAP and only province to invest in improvement of law and order, equip and train police and law enforcement agencies, execute a successful operation against terrorists and land mafia with help of Rangers, and the first to setup a kidney and liver transplant center in the public sector.
Q: If, in the worst case scenario, push comes to shove and there is the prospect of early elections, how much time do you think your party would need to prepare for the polls?
HZQ: In 2013 PPP was not provided a level playing field besides the results were rigged by ROs to artificially give Punjab to PML-N to enable them to make a federal government. Likewise President Asif Ali Zardari or Chairman Bilawal Bhutto weren’t able to campaign while leaders of other parties freely appeared in public rallies. The security situation in the country was a big impediment in addition to other invisible forces and factors which facilitated the PML-N mandate by unduly creating a negative perception about PPP governance. Surely in 2018 most of these negative factors will not be prevalent and our leadership will lead the campaign from the front with an innovative new social contract and an attractive manifesto. We are confident that irrespective of the timing our partly is prepared to contest the next polls and it is in this context that we have not only fully reorganised our party structure and organisations but have also started our election preparation and mass contact campaign in the form of rallies, public meetings and protest camps all of Pakistan. In addition we have started work on forging alliances with like-minded parties and welcoming electables to strengthen our constituency specific requirement baseds on the recommendations received by the leadership from provincial divisional and district organisations of all provinces.