PPP chief Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari lambasted the PTI government on Friday for its “undemocratic attitude” and for “using [state] institutions as political props”.
In a press conference in Karachi, a visibly charged Bilawal criticised Prime Minister Imran Khan for reiterating that all state institutions, including the army, stand by him.
“I believe that Imran Khan should not use institutions, especially the army, as political props. He keeps saying ‘this institution is with me, that institution is with me’ everywhere. These institutions do not belong to a political party, they are Pakistan’s institutions,” the PPP chief said.
He also addressed the prime minister’s statement that the opposition did not get along with the armed forces because the latter “is aware of all their theft”. The prime minister had made these remarks in a speech delivered minutes before Bilawal’s press conference.
“The army’s job is not to detect corruption,” Bilawal said in response to a question. “That is the job of NAB and our courts and other [similar] institutions.”
The PPP chief also raised questions over Prime Minister Imran’s repeated assertions that he was not involved in corrupt practices.
“If he (prime minister) is not involved in corruption, then why is there no NAB investigation on BRT Peshawar? The buses of the project, which was inaugurated by Imran Khan himself, are catching fire. Of their own accord,” he remarked.
“Jahangir Tareen is enjoying in London, there is no answer on how Aleema Khan [was able to] build huge buildings by selling sewing machines. This means you are corrupt. Transparency International said that this government is the most corrupt in history […] Buzdar government is robbing Punjab with both hands, money is changing hands on each posting. ‘Corrupt nahi hain’ (we are not corrupt), stop making these jokes,” Bilawal said sarcastically.
In response to a question, the PPP chief said that state institutions should work within their spheres.
“We don’t have real democracy because a lot of our institutions, not just one, not only perform their own duties but are also assigned other jobs by the government,” he said and added: “The state is suffering and all institutions are being defamed.”
“When our Supreme Court, which is an institution towards which everyone should be looking for justice, steps up to build dams, it will become controversial,” Bilawal said, referring to former chief justice Saqib Nisar’s efforts to collect donations for the Diamer-Bhasha Dam while he was still in office.
“Similarly, in  elections, the way army personnel were deployed inside and outside polling stations — something that didn’t even happen during Zia or Musharraf’s time — questions will be raised whether [army] did something or not.
“All institutions should do their own work. It’s a good thing that such deployment is not seen for Gilgit-Baltistan elections,” said Bilawal.
In response to another question about what his party’s stance would be if JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman resorted to using the “religion card”, Bilawal said: “Every political party has its own politics. We will talk about our manifesto, he will talk about his.”
PPP and JUI-F are part of the opposition alliance named Pakistan Democratic Movement. The alliance has demanded the government to step down and hold fresh elections and has announced to hold public meetings across the country to garner support.
‘Withdraw the ordinance’
Bilawal was visibly angry over the recent ordinance aimed at taking control of Bundal and Buddo, two islands along Karachi’s coast, which has sparked controversy and a war of words between the PTI and PPP.
Keeping parliament out of the loop, President Arif Alvi on August 31 promulgated the Pakistan Islands Development Authority (PIDA) Ordinance, 2020, to facilitate the Centre to take control of Sindh’s two islands — Bundal and Buddo. The ordinance was notified the following day.
Just two weeks later, Alvi discussed the fate of Bundal Island development with real estate tycoon and businessmen, including Malik Riaz, Aqeel Karim Dedhi and Arif Habib.
The Pakistan Islands Development Authority (PIDA) is being established “for the development and management of the islands in the internal waters and territorial waters of Pakistan”, but only the Bundal and Buddo Islands are mentioned as “specified areas” in the first schedule of the ordinance.
The PIDA will be directly answerable to the prime minister, who would be the patron of the authority. Besides approving the policies, the PM would give approval to all development schemes.
The PPP has been vociferous in its opposition of the ordinance and has demanded that government to withdraw it. Bilawal has also vowed to challenge it in the National Assembly, Senate as well as the provincial assembly.
Terming the move “unconstitutional” in his press conference today, the PPP chief said that his party will not allow anyone to “annex any piece of land in an unconstitutional manner”.
“Today you are taking over our islands, tomorrow you will take over Umerkot, Badin etc,” he said and demanded the federal government to withdraw the ordinance.
“These are not just our (Sindh’s) islands, it is the entire coastal belt! You will also take over islands in Balochistan. Withdraw it! This is my first demand, they should withdraw this unconstitutional measure.”
When asked if Sindh government’s representatives will talk to the provincial governor, Imran Ismail, who has been directed by the prime minister to sort the matter out, Bilawal refused.
“Forget about it! We will not talk about this. We never expected, I don’t think anyone did, that this government can take such a step. This is a serious issue, my entire province is protesting, what do we talk about? It’s a non-starter,” Bilawal declared, adding that the government’s attitude was “undemocratic and unconstitutional”.
“People can’t take your cruelty any more, you do something inhumane every day,” said the lawmaker.
He added that the fishermen who lived on the islands are already unhappy with the federal government over its fisheries policy.