Ex-president Zardari confident ECP will hold free and fair polls

Former President Asif Ali Zardari on Sunday said he was confident that the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) would hold free and fair elections in the country on February 8, 2024. “The country is heading towards transparent polls and the PPP is fully prepared for elections,” he said in a statement issued by the party. “The PPP is the only party which is capable of fighting elections in all kinds of environments,” Zardari stated, adding that he was confident the PPP would emerge victorious on Feb 8. The environment in the country is favourable for elections and polls should be held on time, Zardari said. The former president’s statement comes a day after he held a meeting with UK High Commissioner Jane Marriott at Bilawal House in Karachi. A party statement issued after the meeting said that Zardari and Marriott, accompanied by their aides, held a detailed discussion on a “range of issues”. “President Zardari did not express any doubt about the Feb 8 polls because he believes that there is no other option left to run the country and the state affairs,” said a party leader. “The PPP has made it almost public that it would not go for any formal or major alliance … but seat adjustment and deals with other contestants can be considered depending on the position of [political] parties in different constituencies.” The PPP leader, however, shared his party’s concerns with the UK diplomat about level playing field in the run-up to polls. “I mean, he conveyed his feelings and thoughts within the party ranks about how one party [PML-N] is already seen coming into power months before the polls. The indicators and sentiments do not support the claims of level playing field,” the source said. Separately, US envoy Donald Blome also met PPP leader Yousaf Raza Gilani yesterday. During the meeting, the leaders discussed the political landscape of south Punjab concerning the upcoming polls. With the date proposed for the general elections just two months away, the PPP has repeatedly bemoaned the lack of a level playing field. During a rally in Peshawar on Saturday, PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari said his party was accustomed to overcoming unfair political challenges. “Was there any level playing field in 1988 when IJI was formed against [former prime minister] Benazir Bhutto? But still, Benazir Bhutto won the election and became the first female prime minister of the country,” he had said.