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February 21, 2019

Won’t allow benami PM to become dictator sans uniform: Bilawal

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February 21, 2019

LONDON: The Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has said the party will not let a ‘benami’ prime minister become a dictatorship without a uniform, while the PPP Co-Chairman said the government will not be given more time.

In a message on Twitter, Bilawal rejected the arrest of Sindh Assembly Speaker Agha Siraj Durrani and termed it an undemocratic attempt to dislodge the Sindh government.

He said independent institutions should not be a part of political engineering. “Hum Baynami wazeer-e-azam ko baywardi Aamriat Qaaim nahi karnay daingay. Attack on Speaker of federating unit is unacceptable.

Undemocratic attempt to dislodge Sindh govt failed before will fail again. Independent institutions shouldn’t unwittingly be part of political engineering,” he wrote. Meanwhile, addressing a press conference in London, Bilawal said the Bhuttos have always faced Kerbala in Rawalpindi and transfer of fake accounts case from Sindh to Rawalpindi is the latest manifestation of that.

The PPP leader said the fake accounts case, involving his father Asif Ali Zardari and his aunt, should not have been transferred from Sindh to Rawalpindi. He said the alleged crime scene is in Sindh and the case should have been heard in Sindh, crime scene is in Sindh and the case should have been heard in Sindh, but the Supreme Court rejected his petition asking the NAB to hold an inquiry into the fake accounts case in the twin cities. He said the PPP workers are saying that Rawalpindi has never given us justice as in the case of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, who was hanged in Rawalpindi, and his mother Shaheed Benazir Bhutto, who was killed in Rawalpindi in a bomb attack. And now the fake accounts case, said Bilawal.

“The PPP workers say that Kerbala is created for the PPP in Pindi every time and there is history to it, but we are not scared of Pindi; I demand to shift all other trials to Sindh and I am ready to face trial in Pindi; there cannot be two laws in Pakistan. If I can be tried in Rawalpindi then others should be tried in Sindh,” he said. Bilawal alleged that double standards of justice are on full display as his family is being victimised while Imran Khan, his sister Aleema Khan and PTI leaders Jahangir Tareen and PTI’s allies are outside of the remit of law and accountability. Bilawal said the transfer of fake accounts cases to Pindi is a violation of his rights as the citizen of Pakistan. Bilawal alleged that the 18th Amendment, NFC Award and the fundamental rights are under attack under the PTI government. He said the arrest of Siraj Durrani from Islamabad by NAB has sent a wrong message to Sindh. He said there is one law in Pakistan for Imran Khan and his people and another for rest of the country. He said Imran Khan’s assets are in billions and he has not worked after 1992.

“He has no source of income since 1992 so where does he get his money, what are his sources? His sister Aleema Khan owns tens of millions, has made dozens of properties in Dubai, New Jersey and New York; all we know is that she had a sewing machine that helped her to become a millionaire; there is Jahangir Tareen who had an offshore company and foreign Swiss accounts but no JIT for Imran Khan, Aleema or Tareen to investigate their means of income. Only we are the targets of this so-called accountability,” he said. Bilawal quipped: “Aleema Khan is a magician. We want her to teach us how she made her money through a sewing machine, how she made flats in New Jersey, New York and Dubai. This is a secret we would love to know about,” he said.

Bilawal said the PM’s Special Assistant Zulfi Bukhari was sprung out of Pakistan by Imran Khan himself while his name was on the ECL. “All laws were set aside for the friend of Imran Khan. That was bizarre hypocrisy. Only in Pakistan a benami prime minister can play with the Constitution of the country and he’s allowed to do that,” the PPP chief said. Bilawal condemned the PTI government for suppressing the rights of the Pakistani citizens. “Our democratic values, democratic space and our human rights are under attack at the moment. The freedom of expression is essential for any democracy and one of the basic pillars of a society but these values are under attack in Pakistan, there are planned attacks on media and there is a plan behind it,” he said. Bilawal said he was opposed to Nawaz Sharif's trial by Supreme Court in Panama case and asked the PML-N to let this matter be dealt by the Parliament. “It is my view that this matter should be dealt by the Parliament and only Parliament should hold politicians accountable and not outside institutions, but the PML-N didn’t listen to me at that time and what happened after that is known to all,” he said.

Bilawal said the NAB’s laws are draconian in nature, which are used for political engineering. “The NAB's ‘asset beyond means’ jargon stands for political victimisation and it’s used by the NAB when no evidence of corruption is found. The NAB is not a free and fair institution. This institution was set up for political engineering by Musharraf and the PPP was the first target as King’s Party was made through the NAB. He asked: “Why is Pervaiz Elahi free, why is Pervaiz Khattak free, why Zulfi Bukhari is free, why Asad Qaisar is free, why Aleema Khan and others in the PTI are free. Why was Siraj Durrani arrested by NAB on the basis of allegations? Why is Musharraf sitting in Dubai and enjoying life scot free after destroying the Constitution of Pakistan? Why there is JIT on us to investigate our breakfasts and meals, while he’s allowed to use his frozen accounts? What’s the difference? Is my blood different from his? Are we lesser beings?”

Bilawal offered that he was ready to join hands with Imran Khan to make amendments in the NAB laws. But he feared that the PM will not take up the offer because “persecution and political fixing” by the NAB suits him. He demanded that the NAB must be dismantled and a fair accountability institution should be formed for across the board accountability on fair and transparent basis. He said that NAB is setting dangerous precedents. “The Chief Justice of Pakistan himself ordered to expunge my name from the fake accounts report, to remove my name from the ECL, but then added my name in the written order implicating me. Where does this happen in the world, this kind of discrepancy and double standards? There is difference in written and verbal orders and it is shocking? Why did he do that and who asked him to do that?” Bilawal questioned.

Bilawal said his family is facing media trial for several months but they have not been given right to defend themselves in the court. He claimed they have been denied basic rights in a brazen manner. “I didn’t get right to a fair trial. My colleagues say the Bhuttos cannot get justice from courts. There are thousands of cases that the courts can take up, but they didn’t and they are focusing on us. The fake accounts case was created in the middle of the election process to manipulate the results; there should have been no suo motu by the Supreme Court,” he said. Bilawal expressed solidarity with the media workers and said there is “no freedom of media and freedom of press in Naya Pakistan and we condemn attacks on the freedoms in Pakistan by the PTI government; attacks on journalists are unacceptable, freedoms enjoyed under PPP govt are now gone.”

Meanwhile, Asif Ali Zardari condemned the arrest of Siraj Durrani and called for amendment in the NAB laws. Addressing media in Islamabad, Zardari said democracy has been challenged by the arrest of the Sindh Assembly speaker. “This is nothing new. There should be amendments in the NAB’s laws and that his party is ready to face the accountability bureau. On the recent Supreme Court decision dismissing the review petitions in the fake accounts case, Zardari said the PPP has always accepted them (court decisions) and want to strengthen institutions. “In our tenure we had raised salaries (of judges) to attract the best people. There are several good judges. We will face the NAB inquiry and if we have to go to jail, you know that has always been my second home,” he said.

To a question, he said the NAB brought a person with name of ‘Mangi’ from Sindh who is now arresting Sindhis. Asked whether the PPP will support Maulana Fazlur Rehman’s call for march on Islamabad, Zardari replied that Fazlur Rehman is not only his brother but also a friend and the party will stand by him. “It is also possible that the PPP will come to the protest mode,” he said.

Zardari also spoke on the ongoing tensions with India in the aftermath of the attack in Pulwama, recalling that when he was the president, a similar situation had arisen. The former president was referring to attack on the Taj Hotel in Mumbai. “We forced India to back down and handled it through diplomatic channels,” he said. Zardari was critical of the PTI government’s handling of the situation with India. “Our government does not understand. Back street drivers do not understand politics, which is why this issue keeps on escalating,” he said. Zardari warned India against any misadventure saying, “I want to assure you that if India does any misadventure, the entire nation is united. The PPP will stand with the armed forces.”

Commenting further on the PTI government, Zardari said the recent trip of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was mishandled. “They did not invite us, Nawaz Sharif or Shahbaz Sharif,” he said. He added a minister had tweeted that opposition leaders are unfit to meet the crown prince. “We are trying to give them time to solve people’s problems, but the prices of electricity and gas are rising. In the summer you will need to sell your car to pay for the electricity bill,” he said.

Zardari held two meetings within few hours with Fazlur Rehman. The former president went to the residence of the JUI-F chief after his press conference and discussed the future line of action of the opposition in the coming days and current political situation arising out of the arrest of Siraj Durrani.