ISLAMABAD: PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari on Tuesday said that Prime Minister Imran Khan repeatedly speaks of Riyasat-e-Madina to "draw the people's attention away" from the government's "economic failures".
Bilawal's remarks came during a press conference alongside Leader of the Opposition in the Senate Yousuf Raza Gilani, a day after Prime Minister Imran Khan's article on the rule of law and lessons to learn from the state of Madina, was published in leading newspapers.
Citing Afghanistan as an example, where after the takeover of the Taliban, a strict interpretation of Islam is being enforced, the PPP chairman said that it is likely that the more things decline economically in the war-torn country, "talk of religion will be ramped up to divert the people's attention".
"Here too, as our economy witnesses a downturn, the prime minister speaks of Riyasat-e-Madina to draw the people's attention away," he said.
"Those who attempt to divert people's attention can say their prayers, can keep their fasts and can make arrangements for their eternal abode in heaven. We, too, will continue in our struggle," Bilawal said.
Speaking of the supplementary finance bill recently passed by the National Assembly, the PPP chairman said that the government "forcibly passed the anti-people mini budget", adding that the Opposition protested inside and outside the House over the move.
"We were promised when the budget was being passed that some items will not be taxed, but that turned out wrong," he said, citing the example of solar panels which were supposed to not be taxed but now will be.
Bilawal said the "mini-budget" was passed "under the cover of night", as well the State Bank of Pakistan bill, both "forcibly", "without a count" and "without taking into consideration the Opposition's amendments".
He said such an "attack on Pakistan's sovereignty had never before taken place in the history of Pakistan" and that the central bank "will no longer be answerable" to Parliament, judiciary or the people, and will "operate under dictation" from foreign institutions.
Bilawal said that the people of Pakistan "now demand that we all storm the streets against the government".
Referring to a meeting of the central PPP leadership, he said that the CEC (Central Executive Committee) "has decided that we will take to the streets on February 27 against the government".
"We will [start our march] from Karachi on February 27, run a campaign against the government, against the PTIMF deal and economic crisis, and for our democratic and human rights," he said.
He said that the PPP does not believe in taking non-democratic measures.
"Since day one, we demanded that we bring a no-trust motion against the government [...] and this is what our campaign will be about," Bilawal said.
The PPP chairman said that the protest caravan will pass through the constituencies of the government allies and the constituencies of their own MNAs.
"We will show them what the people demand. That they wish to be rid of Imran Khan. To be rid of 'Naya Pakistan'. And that they demand transparent elections and the appointment of people who can truly represent the people," he said.
Bilawal admitted that in Senate, the Opposition's numbers are "perhaps not at a point where a no-trust bid can be mounted".
He said that the numbers required for a Senate chairman to be appointed are different and that when it comes to removing a sitting chairman, the numbers required are much higher.
"The PPP case is pending before the court," he said.
The PPP chairman said that winning a no-trust motion in the Senate, however, "will not mean a toppling over of the government".
"It will not reduce inflation, unemployment and poverty. If we have to take our people out of this quagmire, we have to send Imran packing," he said.
Speaking of parallel long marches, one announced by the PPP and the other by the Opposition alliance Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) set for March 23, Bilawal said that if it is true that Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly is leaning towards a no-trust bid rather than the simple demand of a resignation then that raises the chances for both to work together.
"The point is, all parties have to play their part. The people are in dire straits right now. Whether its one march, two marches, 10 marches, we have to remove this government," he said.
Responding to rumours of an "emergency" presidential system being envisioned for the country, Bilawal said that history has proven that such a move has always been "disastrous".
"There is no room for such a move in our law or Constitution. History has shown us that countries have fallen apart whenever such systems have been forcibly implemented," he said.
The PPP chairman said that whoever is "stirring such controversy" is doing so "so that we do not talk about inflation, unemployment, poverty, and agricultural crisis such as fertiliser shortages".
Bilawal said that the first phase of the local body elections in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa were a referendum against the government and that "all the Opposition parties outperformed the PTI" in those elections.
Speaking of the Shahrukh Jatoi case that has stirred up a storm in the country after it was found that the murder convict had taken up residence at a hospital instead of the jail premises, Bilawal said that he has learnt that the provincial government has set up an inquiry commission to look into the matter.
"The PPP is the only party that has zero tolerance for such things. We believe that the murder of one, is the murder of all humanity. We will never wish to aid any murderer.
"But you know how our system is. Whether it is an Islamabad jail, Lahore jail or Sindh jail, there are dual systems operating. We thank you for bringing this to our attention," the PPP chairman said.
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