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HYDERABAD: In a thinly veiled reference to the military establishment, former president and Pakistan Peoples Party co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari said on Saturday that those who have a fixed service tenure of three years have no right to take decisions about the future of the country.

“I’ve often said what right does an individual having a three-year tenure has to take decisions for my nation? This is solely the right of parliament and no one else’s,” he said while addressing a large public meeting at Karan Khan Shoro village.

Saturday’s speech came as a reminder to a similarly aggressive speech by Mr Zardari in Islamabad on June 16, 2015 in which his intended audience was the then military establishment. He had lashed out against “the character assassination of his party” and warned the military leadership that if they did not stop, he would expose the misdeeds of many generals.

He had then also made a reference to the three-year tenure when he said: “I know that this is our army, but you are here for just three years; we have to live here for a long time, so do not create problems for us...”

Says those having tenure of three years have no right to take decision about country’s future

“If we respond, we would make public the deeds of all generals starting from the creation of Pakistan till today. Don’t create problems for us, if attempts were made to bother us, we would tear you down brick by brick (humain agar tang kerne kee koshish ki gai to hum apkee eant se eant baja denge).

Mr Zardari is currently on pre-arrest bail in a money laundering case and has been facing a joint investigation team formed by the Supreme Court.

At the start of his speech, the PPP leader made it clear that he was actually addressing the “deaf, mute and blind people sitting in Islamabad” through the participants of the public meeting.

Mr Zardari reiterated his stance about those having a “three-year tenure” and, in the same breath but without taking any names, appeared to speak critically about the visits to different places by the chief justice.

“[Why do you] keep visiting different places and question things... what does it have to do with you? [Bhai aap ka wasta kia hai]...900,000 cases are pending in the entire judicial system...you should look into those,” he said.

“And you don’t have life...you don’t have future... how will you decide these things in your future?” he said in an apparent reference to the approaching retirement of the country’s top adjudicator.

Asking the powers that be to stop joking with Pakistan, the former president said that if he could run the government effectively it didn’t mean he could also play good cricket. “I know politics and not cricket,” he said.

In an apparent reference to the establishment, he said first they brought Nawaz Sharif. “I told them for God’s sake don’t do this. First they brought him [Sharif] and then they fought and then failed to run [the government].”

He asked the powers that be as to why they brought the present government if it lacked wisdom. “It would have been better that the elections were held in a transparent manner and parties were allowed to form a government of national consensus. This was the only solution,” he remarked.

“Stop this joke with Pakistan. Enough of joke is seen with Pakistan. We make progress in three years and [then] we go back 15 years back when you raise the stick. Why don’t you understand that progress only lies in sustained evolution?” he said.

He equated Pakistan’s political situation with a shop that had been opened and closed and now customers had stopped visiting it. He said that how could foreign investors visit Pakistan when local investors were not interested in industrialisation.

Mr Zardari took a swipe at the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf government at the Centre and said that only a party of the masses could understand the people’s demand and not “the puppets”.

He said that the PTI said that the first 100 days were not enough to make progress. He told the PTI that the PPP, after coming to power in 2008, in its first 100 days had sent packing former military dictator Pervez Musharraf; defeated militants in Swat and took back the control of the valley and launched the Benazir Income Support Programme. “The PTI doesn’t know how to perform.”

Talking about the PTI’s election promise of providing one million houses, he said instead they deprived 500,000 people of their source of livelihood by demolishing their shops. “Don’t they have some sense?” he questioned.

He added that they should have provided alternative shops before dismantling them.

Mr Zardari said that no one could dare “rob him of my right”. However, he said that it pained him to see the government robbing the poor of their legitimate rights.

He said that the government was trying to close the BISP but the PPP would not let that happen.

After highlighting the alleged incompetence of the PTI government, Mr Zardari presented the solution of the country’s problems when he said” “Let the PPP win elections and I will make industry grow here locally. I don’t need foreign money and nor I am interested [in it].”

He said that local businessmen and the stock exchange should be given a chance to ensure borrowing for setting up industry here. He said that only technology or experts should be brought from foreign countries.

“We have so many programmes,” he said and added that water had become a serious issue and the government had to do something by introducing new methods of water conservation.

“We are all Pakistan and we have to take care of the Indus river. I know Afghanistan and India are building dams. But we have to take care of entire Pakistan and everyone,” he said.

He said that the PPP leadership right from Zulfikar Ali Bhutto to Benazir Bhutto always thought about these issues.

Z.A. Bhutto pursued the nuclear programme because he knew that India would become strong and this may cause problem for Pakistan, he said, adding that tribute must be paid to Benazir Bhutto for introducing the missile technology to Pakistan.

He said that the slain former prime minister had told the then army chief that she knew what would be her fate for bringing the missile technology to the country. “She said I know it means my neck but for Pakistan I will do it,” Mr Zardari quoted Ms Bhutto as telling the then army chief.

Without elaborating further, he said the PPP was not responsible if something wrong was done.

He said that people had been asking him as to why he left Musharraf without any proceedings. He said that he did not want Musharraf to die as he wanted him to see the people’s love for Benazir Bhutto.

Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah, former CM Syed Qaim Ali Shah, Sindh PPP president Nisar Khuhro, MPA Jam Khan Shoro also spoke.

It may be recalled here that following his June 2015 diatribe, Mr Zardari left the country and stay abroad until the retirement of then army chief Gen Raheel Sharif.

Published in Dawn, December 16th, 2018