FeaturedNationalVolume 14 Issue # 16

Bilawal’s dilemma

Months after threatening to overthrow the government of Prime Minister Imran Khan, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has started criticizing national institutions. His bitterness has increased, as a fake accounts case against his father and former President Asif Zardari is in the final stages in courts.

Experts claim Bilawal is being used by his father to save himself in the case. However, Bilawal’s attempt could backfire and he himself could land in trouble, instead of rescuing Zardari, because he is also an accused in the case. It is believed he is attempting to threaten the establishment to get relief for himself and his father, a tactic used by the Sharif family in the Panama case, though it did not work. Bilawal has started targeting the establishment in the name of the government. He believes when he bashes the government or Prime Minister Imran Khan, his aim is at the establishment, which he thinks has brought the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government to power after rigging the last election.

Bilawal was quite sure who was he targeting when he spoke against the government over a crackdown on banned organizations. “The government has not arrested the leaders of banned outfits, but took them into protective custody to save them from Indian jets. They have been taken into protective custody, so that the Indian planes don’t blow them up,” he told reporters in Islamabad after appearing in the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) along with his father. The PPP chairperson also lashed out at the National Accountability Bureau for “making cases to control politicians.” His remarks on banned outfits made headlines in India.

The NAB had summoned the PPP leaders in the fake accounts case and the Park Lane case. A Karachi banking court was previously hearing the case against the former president and his close aides, including Omni Group Director Anwar Majeed. However, the NAB requested the court to transfer the case to Islamabad. On March 15, the court ruled in NAB’s favour and shifted the case to Islamabad. Ahead of the appearance, a large number of PPP workers gathered near the NAB office and clashed with the police. Over 35 workers were arrested for trying to get close to the office gate. PPP workers had been especially instructed to reach the capital to “express solidarity” with their leaders. They started waiting for their leaders outside the office in the morning and created a scene to grab media’s attention. They stopped the entry of their leaders to the premises by surrounding their vehicles, making it difficult for them to proceed further. PPP leader Nayyar Bukhari alleged that many “peaceful” workers had been stopped from reaching the venue.

The PPP leaders were questioned for two hours in three cases by a combined investigation team (CIT) of the NAB. It also handed them a questionnaire pertaining to the cases, which they must respond to within 10 days. On the other hand, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry compared the PPP workers with members of banned outfits. In a video message, he said some 500 PPP workers had gathered outside the NAB office, of which a few dozen had clashed with the police, injuring four policemen and two cameramen. The minister alleged the PPP wanted to teach a lesson to those who had summoned them for the probe. “How is this attitude different form that of banned outfits against whom the NAP (National Action Plan) is being enforced,” he questioned.

Earlier, the PPP chairman blamed the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf government and its ministers of “promising immunity” to banned extremist organizations and using their support to win the 2018 general election. In a series of tweets, he said, “As long as compromised individuals remain in the cabinet no one will take GOP claims seriously. Those who have supported such groups & their training camps must be removed from the federal cabinet. Finally, ministers who promised immunity to such groups under PTI must go if GOP expects opposition to believe they are serious about taking on extremism, banned organizations & distancing themselves from past support to such groups.” He then shared an old article on Finance Minister Asad Umar’s meeting with Ansarul Ummah leader Maulana Fazlur Rehman Khalil, who is also one of the founders of Harkatul Mujahideen al Islami (HuM), which has been banned over terrorism by international bodies. “Ministers who have been part of mainstreaming & got support of such outfits during the elections must be removed from the federal cabinet,” he said and accused the PTI-led government of not being responsive to his demand of a joint National Security Council (NSC) parliamentary committee. He tweeted, “The government has responded to my demand to sack ministers associated with banned outfits by declaring me anti-state, issuing death threats & NAB notices. None of this deters us from our principle stand; form joint NSC parliamentary committee & act against banned outfits.”

Meanwhile, Bakhtawar Bhutto-Zardari, daughter of Asif Zardari, lamented the third generation of her family was being put on trial in fake cases. In a Twitter message, she said: “This is the third generation of my family being put on trial with fake cases whilst skeletons of dictators are still untouchable. We have no justice of our grandfather’s murder but this faulty justice system has the audacity to put his grandson on trial.”

One can sympathise with the Bhutto family for their sacrifices, but who can forget the Surrey Palace? The late Benazir Bhutto and Asif Zardari always denied buying the mansion which was bought with ill-gotten gains in 1995. She even claimed to have never even visited the property. But Zardari eventually admitted being behind the purchase in 2004, before it was sold for more than £4million the following year, according to the British media. Experts say it was Asif Zardari, who convinced Benazir Bhutto to make money to compete with the Sharifs in politics. They say Zardari used her to save his corruption. Now, he is using Bilawal for the same purpose. It is feared he will be responsible for the fall of his son.