PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari claimed on Thursday that members of the PTI were “happily coming to PPP” and switching their affiliation, adding that no one would be allowed to compromise the upcoming Senate elections.

Bilawal was addressing a gathering in Karachi to celebrate Yousuf Murtaza Baloch’s victory in the PS-88 Malir by-election. According to unofficial results, he won the election with a huge margin. He secured 24,251 votes against Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan’s Syed Kashif Ali Shah who got 6,090 votes. PTI’s Jan Sher Junejo bagged 4,870 votes and Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan’s Sajid Ahmed received 2,635, respectively.

The PPP chief said that members of the PTI could see the government was on its way out and would no longer vote on its orders. “They can see that whether [by-]elections happen in Karachi or Sangar, the PPP is dealing a blow to the PTI,” he said, adding that because of this, the PTI’s members were switching their allegiances.

“They are happily coming to the PPP, saying they will give us their votes in return for tickets with the hope to become [the PPP’s] candidates in the future.”

He said the process was a natural part of democracy, adding that democracies are run according to the law and the Constitution instead of some “Pharoah’s orders”. Bilawal said another reason for this was the presidential reference in the Supreme Court, which according to him was against the PTI’s own MNAs and MPAs.

In December, President Dr Arif Alvi had sought the opinion of the Supreme Court on holding the Senate elections through open ballot and show of hands. The Supreme Court had subsequently constituted a five-member bench to hear the case.

In his speech on Thursday, Bilawal termed the move an “admission of no-confidence” in the PTI’s own members by Prime Minister Imran Khan.

“If the govt has a majority, if it trusts its MNAs and MPAs, then why does it want to come through chor darwazay (back doors),” questioned Bilawal and challenged the government to come “face-to-face” for a political contest.

“We won’t give any permission to compromise the Senate elections or to steal votes of members of [national and provincial] assemblies.”

‘Govt worried’

He said the residents of PS-88 had exposed the “true worth of these puppets” and the big lead the PPP gained had even surprised and “worried the selectors and the selected”. “We are fighting and defeating this government on every front,” he said, claiming that the government had been facing similar defeats in multiple by-elections.

The PPP supremo added that not only the PPP, but also the 10-party alliance, Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), was playing its cards in a way that had the government “highly worried” about the by-elections and especially the Senate elections. “PDM will also attack this government in Senate elections not only from Sindh, Punjab but also Islamabad.”

Bilawal alleged that the government was now pressuring different institutions and wanted to “fire a gun” from the shoulders of the Election Commission of Pakistan and the Supreme Court. He added that not only the secrecy of votes of MPAs was being taken away but also their right to vote according to their choice, which he called “an attack on democracy”.

“We hope that all the people with us and the PDM will not allow this to happen. We won’t give permission for rigging to be done in Senate elections,” he said, further warning: “No one should get any ideas to get chor [Prime Minister Imran Khan] Niazi a majority in Senate through chor darwazay [secret doorways].”

‘Conspiracy against democracy’

Bilawal claimed that no suo motu notice was taken against irregularities and instances of political harassment in the 2018 general elections or when political parties were decrying the lack of “level playing field” and lack of freedom for the media or when, he alleged, “my party was broken up and my Punjab candidates were forcefully sent to this puppet party.”

Instead, he claimed, when the demands for elections according to the Constitution and the law was made, then photoshopped and fake videos were released to the media. “What kind of joke is this?” he questioned and said “it is beyond my understanding” how the government had taken to blame the opposition for a video in which members of PTI were represent — referring to the recent video leak that showed lawmakers allegedly receiving cash for switching loyalties before the Senate elections in March 2018.

He termed such stunts “a conspiracy against democracy and Senate elections” and reminded that democratic forces were looking at institutions and what roles they played — democratic or undemocratic.

“The victory will be ours, we are ready for every Senate elections, we are ready for secret and open ballot, now you should prepare because there will be a march in March.”

Bilawal said the rights of the people for better livelihood, jobs, National Finance Commission Award and development funds — for resolving local issues of potable water and cleanliness — would be snatched from Islamabad in the PDM’s long march.