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Chairman Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari remained defiant hours after arrest of party Co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari and vowed that the party will never change its stance on democratic and human rights of the people, continuation of military courts and any move to reverse 18th Constitutional Amendment.

"Do whatever you want!...we will never compromise on our stance with regard to human rights, democratic rights of the people, our position on (resisting continuation of) military courts and (efforts to repeal) 18th Amendment," Bilawal said while speaking at a press conference hours after his father Asif Ali Zardari was arrested by National Accountability Bureau (NAB) in the fake bank accounts case.

Bilawal also condemned the attitude of Speaker National Assembly Asad Qaiser and Deputy Speaker Qasim Suri allegedly for not allowing him to speak in the House on Monday soon after the arrest of the PPP co-chairman and also demanded resignations of the both for being 'biased.'

"Three of the government members were given the chance to speak but I was denied to speak in the House. I condemn this attitude of the National Assembly speaker and deputy speaker and demand that they should step down because they are not impartial, as they are acting like an extension of the government," he alleged.

He further alleged the speaker for getting dictation from the government for running the House, adding that he was not allowed to speak in the House allegedly for being an elected representative of the people of Larkana. Referring to the alleged censorship of the opposition's stance on the national media, Bilawal described Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI's) 'Naya [new] Pakistan' as a 'censored' Pakistan.

"The media is facing censorship. I've been pointing it out since the elections. Those who don't toe the line face repercussions. Interviews are not aired and woes of judiciary are not being discussed...This doesn't happen in a democracy, this is not a democratic Pakistan, but a censored Pakistan," he further alleged.

Calling the PTI government a 'puppet' and 'coward,' he further stated: "This is a puppet and coward government which is weak enough that it's unable to face criticism by the opposition [leaders]... by Nawaz Sharif, Asif Zardari, Shahbaz Sharif and Manzoor Pashteen (leader of Pashtun Tahafuz Movement), as we know they are frightened and coward."

Referring to the references filed against the judges of the superior judiciary, Bilawal stated: "Every citizen has the right to a fair trial. They deserve to know if a reference is being filed against them, not from a ticker on the television but from those filing it."

He said that the government should have told the National Assembly if it was filing references against the judges. "There is no difference between Imran Khan's Naya Pakistan and the era of Musharraf and Zia or that of General Ayub Khan. The people were silenced then and the same is happening now," he said, adding that a conspiracy is now being hatched to target the judiciary and the government is attacking the human, democratic and economic rights of the people.

About the arrest of Zardari, he alleged that the government violated the right to free trial by arresting him through NAB, adding that the NAB officials came in the Zardari House without arrest orders. "Zardari gave his custody in protest," he said, adding: "We have never hidden behind arrests or cases."

"How can you frighten a "boy" who is a son of Benazir Bhutto who was bombed and the grandson of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto who was hanged [to death]...it is incumbent upon me to continue the struggle for democracy," Bilawal vowed. Asked if he sees the role of establishment in the arrest of his father, Bilawal stated: "It's a very innocent question. I believe you also have lost your TV job...I think everything is being run by the establishment...PPP has always supported democracy I am not impatient, I will continue to struggle just like my mother and grandfather."

About the future course of action, he said that a future strategy will be chalked out in consultation with other opposition political parties. He said that Emir Jamiat Ulem-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) Maulana Fazlur Rehman will convene an all-parties conference (APC) in this regard. "We want this Parliament should also complete its term provided the government's owns steps (do not lead to it to its collapse)...we would continue our struggles for democracy to strengthen and all the institutions to work within their own constitutional domains," he said, adding that the black laws of NAB also need to be done away with.

On the upcoming budget, Bilawal said that they would continue to highlight the 'anti-people' steps, adding that the attitude of the government indicates that it does not want the session to run smoothly. About the Economic Survey of Pakistan which was unveiled on Monday, he said that the government has missed all the targets, adding that the Sindh government is the only provincial government which has increased its tax base.

Later, Bilawal also chaired a meeting of the party's central executive committee (CEC) and reviewed the situation in the aftermath of Zardari's arrest. The meeting was attended by Syed Khursheed Shah, Raza Rabbani, Raja Pervez Ashraf, Syed Murad Ali Shah, Syed Qaim Ali Shah, Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani, Nayyar Hussain Bokhari, Qamar Zaman Kairan, Saeed Ghani, Nisar Khuhro, Assefa Bhutto Zardari and others.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2019


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