LAHORE: Expressing his resolve to send rulers home, Pakistan People’s Party Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari Thursday announced that the PPP would commence its march against the government on Feb 27 from the Mazar-i-Quaid.
The PPP caravan, he said, would head towards Islamabad. Flanked by former prime minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf and other party leaders at a press conference at Bilawal House, Lahore, the PPP chairman also informed media about the decisions taken in a meeting of the Central Executive Committee (CEC) and federal council of the party held on Jan 5 and validated by the core committee on Jan 6.
The people of Lahore and Punjab are once again looking towards the PPP, he said, adding the PPP had increased its vote-bank six folds in the recent by-elections. “I request the people of Punjab to support me as I will not disappoint them. We only look towards the people for support and no one else,” he said. “We demand fresh, fair and transparent elections in the country because the solution to the problems of the people is in democracy, democracy and more democracy.”
He said that Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto had laid the foundation of the party in Lahore and “we are starting our movement to dislodge this government from the same city.” Bilawal also said that the CEC had urged the Supreme Court to revisit the judicial murder of Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. “His murder was the biggest attack on Pakistan. The entire Pakistan is waiting for the Supreme Court's decision in this regard. The CEC had condemned the government for its failure in resolving the people's problems.
The CEC had also expressed its concern over the state's surrender to militants, the situation in Afghanistan and the secret deal on Reko Diq. He said that Shaheed Benazir Bhutto had struggled for the merger of tribal areas and the cause was also a part of her last manifesto. “Unfortunately, the merger was not fully implemented and the promises made to the people of the tribal areas were not fulfilled.
There are conspiracies being hatched to reverse the merger, which we will strongly resist. We urge the ECP to take action against the PTI, which hid its foreign funding for seven long years. We have formed a legal team to look into it and challenge it. In the mini-budget, our economic independence has been compromised and our legal team is also working on challenging it because we want the State Bank to be sovereign.”
He said that the CEC had urged the Supreme Court to vacate the stay order against the minimum wage of Rs25,000 per month and “we ask the Supreme Court not to be a hurdle to our provincial autonomy. “The government has tried to extend the expired ordinances through the National Assembly. We will challenge this act of the government. The CEC had also condemned atrocities against Kashmiris and appealed to the international community to take notice. The CEC had also paid tributes to the PPP's legal team which was successful in getting 16,000 workers restored through the Supreme Court.
The PPP has prepared a White Paper to expose the government. Taj Haider has prepared a report on rigging in the elections; we will take that report to the ECP and ask for action to be taken against this government. “The PPP has protested against price-hike, shortage of gas, increased price of petroleum. Now, according to the decision of the CEC, this protest will progress to the second phase from Thursday.
It will oppose mini-budget within and outside Parliament. The day the mini-budget will be tabled, we will protest in front of the Parliament House.” Biblical Bhutto said that the growers were running from pillar to post for fertiliser and they were compelled to buy fertiliser from the black market. “We will hold Kisan rallies in every division of Pakistan. The people are not ready to tolerate this incompetent government anymore and are demanding its ouster.” Responding to questions, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said that the PDM did not engage the PPP as far as its decisions were concerned. “We invite the entire nation to defend their democratic and economic rights. It is up to the PDM whether they want to resign or not. Our stand on the establishment and other institutions is that every institution should work within its constitutional domain. We hope that this will happen. If the establishment has said that it is neutral, then we welcome it. We are in Lahore because the people of Lahore and Punjab have always supported the PPP. The people in this city had welcomed Shaheed Benazir Bhutto in 1986 in great numbers and with enthusiasm which is a record to this day.”
Answering a question, he said that he laid the foundation of the PDM. "We had a very good strategy. We convinced our friends to take part in by-elections, then the election for a Senate seat in the National Assembly. We defeated Imran Khan in all elections," he said.
He said that he desired for every democratic force to come out against this incapable government. He said that those who engaged in the 'politics of deals' did not have graveyards of martyrs. Replying to another question, he said that the party's committee was working on the manifesto for the next elections.
The basis of our manifesto has always been "Roti, Kapra aur Makan". Bilawal said that the entire PPP would be present on the day of voting on mini-budget and hoped that the entire opposition would also be there. He said that some TV channels were not reporting the amount he had paid as agriculture tax. The PPP Media Office had released the figures of the total taxes he paid for the last five years. He said that Imran Khan used to call everyone a thief but he was exposed as the biggest thief himself. “Imran Khan is the only person in the whole of Pakistan who got 5800 percent richer whereas the entire nation has become poorer. The people of Pakistan want to know how he became rich overnight.”Responding to another question, he said the PPP had always stabilised the country's economy. During the PPP government in 2008-2013, when the world was facing recession, it was the PPP which had increased pay and pensions up to 100 percent. The PPP had started Benazir Income Support Programme to help poor women. We were facing a food shortage in 2008 but in one year, we had begun exporting wheat and rice. He said that the PPP could deal with the economic crisis which the country was facing today.
Meanwhile, PMLN Vice-President Maryam Nawaz on Thursday lambasted the PTI-led government for receiving foreign funding as revealed by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) in its report and said that Prime Minister Imran Khan would have to be answerable to the masses for his wrongdoing and he should go home by tendering resignation as prime minister.Speaking during a press conference after a meeting of the PML-N in Lahore, Maryam said that PTI resorted to "misdeclaration" of funds upon the directives of PM Imran Khan.
Several other senior PML-N leaders, including Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Rana Sanaullah, Pervez Rasheed, and Maryam Aurangzeb were also in attendance during the press briefing.
Providing details related to the figures revealed in the ECP's report, she said that the PTI has 26 bank accounts, of which 18 were active, while only four were declared.
"The foreign funding case was delayed for seven years on various pretexts," she said. "You received funding from the USA, the Middle East, Australia, Canada, and England. Companies were formed abroad and all this was done at the behest of Imran Khan."
"Imran Khan solicited the money from abroad in the accounts of four of his employees but used all the money himself," Maryam said, adding that the PTI submitted fake certificates to the ECP.
"Imran Khan will have to be answerable to the people of Pakistan as to where he spent the illegal foreign funding," she said. She went on to say that in order to prevent ECP's report from being publically released, the government exerted a lot of pressure on the commission.
Maryam further alleged that not only did the PTI government resort to the misdeclaration of foreign funding, but it also patronised and rewarded sugar, electricity, flour, and other mafias which led to inflation in the country.
The PML-N vice-president said that the PTI used the religion card to conceal his wrongdoing. In the light of the allegations levelled against the premier, Maryam said that it was high time he stepped down from his office.
"The PML-N, as well as the joint Opposition, demand Imran Khan tenders his resignation for lying, receiving illegal funding, and the concealment of funding," she said, adding that an investigation must be launched into all the undeclared accounts that the PTI government owns in a transparent manner.
"Just like a JIT (joint investigation team) was formed against former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, a similar JIT must be formed to probe PTI too," she said. "All accounts owned by the PTI must be publically declared."
She said that since all the allegations of financial wrongdoing have been proven against the PTI, the people of Pakistan are waiting for accountability. Lauding the ECP on releasing the report, Maryam said that it is now up to the commission to ensure that justice is served and Imran Khan is punished for his corruption.
"The way innocent people were imprisoned [in false cases] the ECP should ensure Imran Khan and his top leaders are also punished," she said. Towards the end of her press conference, Maryam said that she trusts the judiciary of the country and said she hoped that justice will be served.
Answering a question regarding PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif's return to Pakistan, Maryam said that the party will decide it, adding that he only left the country on medical grounds and there were "no deals" signed.
"Nawaz Sharif did not leave the country as a result of any deal. He solely went to London for treatment because his life was in danger," she said, adding that Nawaz's condition had deteriorated because of the mistreatment he was subjected to while in the National Accountability Bureau's (NAB) custody.
Regarding the leaked recording of a phone call Maryam had with Pervez Rasheed, she demanded an apology for tapping her phone without her knowledge. "As a citizen of Pakistan, it was a violation of my rights to tap my personal phone call. Therefore, I am not going to comment on this issue unless I receive an apology."