Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) chief Bilawal Bhutto Zardari will join his father Asif Ali Zardari tomorrow (January 27) in the United States where they will remain for a few days and are expected to discuss the plan to contest by-election, party sources said.
Bilawal, currently in Dubai, will fly to the US to participate in the National Prayer Breakfast -- on the first Thursday of February.
Bilawal also has scheduled meetings with the US officials and lawmakers.
The father and the son, who lead distinct branches of the PPP, are expected to finalise a schedule for the by-elections, which would see them in the parliament for the remaining period of the five-year term that ends in the second quarter of 2018.
Zardari had announced on December 27 that he and Bilawal would contest by-elections to enter the parliament but so far the party had been tight-lipped about the schedule.
Some party leaders said that they could contest in March but this was not officially confirmed either by the PPP or the PPP-Parliamentarians.
A senior PPP leader told The Nation, the schedule was expected to be finalised in the US and could be announced soon after the return of Zardari from the US – in the first week of February.
“They will discuss how to go about it. Should they contest it on the same day or on different dates. It won’t be long before the people will know when they are contesting,” he said.
The PPP leader said that Zardari would also undergo medical check-up during his stay in the US.
“Bilawal will be by his side during the medical check-up,” he added.
Senator Sherry Rehman, who is in the US with Zardari, said that Bilawal’s main agenda was to attend the breakfast and to meet some of the US officials and lawmakers.
“Bilawal Bhutto has been invited for the National Prayer Breakfast, where he will also meet some Americans during his stay in the US,” she said.
The National Prayer Breakfast is an annual event and has been organised since 1953 and covers a series of luncheon and dinners at the Washington Hilton on Connecticut Avenue NW.
The event is typically attended by around 3,500 guests, including international invitees from over 100 countries.
The annual event is attended by every US president since Dwight Eisenhower.
PPP-P Secretary-General Senator Farhatullah Babar said that the schedule would soon be made public. “Once Zardari and Bilawal have taken a decision, the same will be announced. It shouldn’t be too long,” he added.
The PPP has also been keeping the people guessing as to who will be the opposition leader in the National Assembly after Zardari and Bilawal have been elected.
Shah recently said that Bilawal should take his seat after election as the party chief.
The PPP, however, denied that any decision had been taken.
“This decision will be taken after they have been elected. For the time being Khurshid Shah will remain the opposition leader,” Senator Babar said.
Meanwhile, former interior minister Senator Rehman Malik said that the word “Islamic terrorism” – used by the US President, Donald Trump, -- should be replaced by “religious extremism”.
Malik, chairman Senate Standing Committee on Interior and Narcotics Control, said “Islamic terrorism or terrorists” was offensive and inappropriate. In a statement, he said that at a recently-held conference in Baguio all the participating countries had agreed to use “religious extremism” instead of naming and targeting any specific religion.
Senator Malik said that no religion on the surface of world taught its followers to kill people and “how Islam where the killing of one human is considered equal to the killing of the whole humanity can promote it.” “Handful of extremists did not represent the whole religion,” the PPP leader added.
The lawmaker, who is presently in the US, said that Daesh was a big threat to security of every nation and formulation of a common strategy was needed to combat it. He said that sacrifices of Pakistan in the war against terrorism were more than that of any country of the world so the new US administration must not prefer India over Pakistan and must accept its important role and sacrifices.
The former interior minister asked the government to provide life security for the people of Parachinar who were facing terrorism.
Expressing sympathies with the victim families of Parachinar bomb blast, he said that Operation Zarb-e-Azb should continue till the complete elimination of terrorism and extremism.