IN THE NEWS: PPP DECIDES TO HOLD COUNTRYWIDE PROTESTS FOLLOWING ZARDARI’S ARREST (JUNE 11, 2019)

Written by admin on Tuesday, June 11th, 2019

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

PPP decides to hold countrywide protests following Zardari’s arrest
SOURCE: Daily Times
Tuesday, June 11, 2019

* Bilawal calls for resignation of NA speaker, deputy speaker
* PPP chief accuses PTI of picking up its political rivals on one pretext or the other to hide its own weaknesses
* PPP’s CEC decides to participate in opposition’s APC

The Pakistan People’s Party’s (PPP’s) Central Executive Committee (CEC), during a late-night meeting on Monday, decided to hold countrywide protests following the arrest of PPP Co-chairman and former president Asif Ali Zardari.

PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari in a press conference following the meeting said he would “make the government an offer”. “Bring a people-friendly budget. I will support it. We have always taken democratic steps for the people,” he said. “But you bring a budget that is an enemy of the people… You are threatening my workers, my family, you arrested my father. If you bring such a budget, I will show you what a protest is,” he said.

Bilawal also promised that his party would bring judicial reform and raise issues of human rights at every forum. “We are ready to take any step,” he said.

The PPP decided to set up a contact committee and run a mass contact campaign, for which a schedule and process would be decided after consensus formation and engagement with leaders, Bilawal told reporters. He advised his party’s provincial chapters’ presidents to form their strategies because he would be paying them visits soon. He reiterated that the PTI wanted selected government, judiciary and media.

According to reports, the CEC meeting decided that the PPP would participate in a multi-party conference, and that they would proceed as a joint opposition. The party would reportedly protest the government’s “revenge tactics”, the budget and the rising cost of living.

According to the party’s media cell, a protest had been called today at Karachi’s Hassan Square to protest against Zardari’s arrest.

Sindh Chief Minister Murad Shah appealed to party workers and supporters to maintain calm during their protest. “Threats and damage to private or public property are unacceptable,” he said.

Earlier, Bilawal demanded that National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser and Deputy Speaker Qasim Suri resign from their posts for being ‘impartial’.

“I condemn the attitude of National Assembly speaker [Asad Qaiser] and deputy speaker [Qasim Suri] and demand that they resign from their posts because they are not impartial – they act like an extension of the government,” Bilawal said while addressing a press conference hours after the arrest of his father Asif Ali Zardari. He complained that he was not allowed to speak ‘yet again’ in the National Assembly during Monday’s session. “Three of the government members got the chance to speak but I was denied to speak in the House,” he alleged.

The session was adjourned after opposition members surrounded the speaker’s dais and protested against Deputy Speaker Suri giving the floor to Railways Minister Sheikh Rashid instead of the PPP chairman.

“We have seen with our own eyes that when someone from the government indicates, the speaker gets up or sits down,” Bilawal said. “I wasn’t allowed to speak in the National Assembly – I am a representative of the people of Larkana, an elected MNA,” he continued. “I wanted to ask the speaker today: how can you scare the child whose grandfather was hanged, whose grandmother was beaten, whose mother was fired at with teargas, whose uncle was poisoned?” he added.

Bilawal refused to be cowered by the arrest of his father, former president Asif Ali Zardari, in the fake accounts case, accusing the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) of picking up its political rivals on one pretext or the other to hide its weakness. “When the government is selected and weak, it is scared of criticism – whether the criticism is from me, Zardari, Shehbaz Sharif, Hamza Shehbaz or Manzoor Pashteen,” he said.

Bilawal said the former president turned himself in because he wants to avail his right to a fair trial. “We have never hidden behind arrests or cases. What’s the difference between this Naya Pakistan and the Pakistan of Gen (r) Pervez Musharraf or that of General Ayub Khan? People were silenced then and the same is happening now,” he said. “As the son of [former prime minister] Benazir Bhutto and the grandson of [former prime minister] Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, it is incumbent upon me to continue the struggle for democracy,” he added.

He also lambasted the government for turning the country into a ‘censored Pakistan’. “Our media is facing censorship, as I have been saying since the elections. Those who don’t toe the line, face repercussions.

Interviews are not aired, woes of judiciary are not being discussed. This doesn’t happen in a democracy; this is not a democratic Pakistan – this is a censored Pakistan. This is only possible in a naya [new] Pakistan that only the government’s narrative can be published, aired or tweeted,” he said.

“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,” said Bilawal, alluding to the reference against Justice Qazi Faez Isa. “If the government was filing references [against sitting judges], they should have told the National Assembly,” he added, and accused the government of wanting a ‘selected judiciary, selected media and selected opposition’.

“They have arrested Zardari, [former prime minister] Nawaz Sharif – when all the ‘corrupt’ people are in jails and this government is ‘uncorrupt’, then why are people’s pockets still empty? What did they do with the money that was saved from getting rid of all the corrupt people?” asked Bilawal. “We understand that to run this country means that you take all institutions and political parties together. There are so many problems in this country, if one person or a single institution thinks that they can solve everything alone, that is wrong,” he said.

When asked about the role of the establishment in the recent developments, Bilawal said to the reporter that this was a very ‘innocent’ question. “They are running everything; we know this, you know this, they know this as well,” he said to the reporter. “But PPP has always tried to uphold democracy and convince them that in democratic, civilised countries, army is posted in three positions: at the border, at the barracks and in the battlefield,” he continued. “We have [spent] a majority of our time under dictatorships. It will take us time to pass through this transition [to reach the position] where every institution plays its role. We will keep trying to strengthen Pakistan’s democracy,” he said. “PPP has always supported democracy […] I am not impatient, I will continue to struggle just like my mother and grandfather.”

 

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