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Bilawal meets Nawaz Sharif at Kot Lakhpat jail, regrets his incarceration

Updated March 11, 2019

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PPP chairperson says the visit is on humanitarian basis; Kaira maintains political discussion cannot be ruled out. — DawnNewsTV
PPP chairperson says the visit is on humanitarian basis; Kaira maintains political discussion cannot be ruled out. — DawnNewsTV

Opposition leader and Pakistan Peoples Party Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari on Monday met former prime minister Nawaz Sharif at the Kot Lakhpat jail and inquired about the latter's health.

Speaking to media after the meeting, Bilawal said it was "sort of a historical day" for him as his grandfather, former prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, and his father, former president Asif Ali Zardari, as well as various PPP workers, had served time as political prisoners in the same jail.

"I was very sad that a person who has remained the prime minister of the country three times [is again incarcerated here]. It is 2019, and yet another prime minister is serving a sentence in Kot Lakpat jail," the PPP chairman regretted.

Bilawal said he had come to inquire about Nawaz's health because he had heard that the former premier was unwell and over the past few weeks the PML-N and Nawaz's daughter Maryam Nawaz had issued "concerning statements" regarding his health.

He said that though there are political differences between the two parties, the PPP and every individual should follow the cultural and religious values which dictate that a Muslim who is unwell should be visited and inquired after.

"I believe our religion and culture hold such traditions and our leaders should also first be humans and then leaders," Bilawal said adding: "I believe that such injustice should not take place with anyone, not even with an average prisoner."

He said that no one should be disrespected; especially when a prisoner was unwell, it is the obligation of the government and leaders to provide them with the best medical treatment.

The PPP chairman noted that an individual with a heart ailment should not be put under further stress, and described this as a type of "torture".

"I was very sad when I saw Mian sahib; he was looking quite unwell," he said.

Bilawal said he had requested the former premier that health should be everyone's priority, and told him that they were also praying for his health and hoping it would improve.

While noting that the PPP and PML-N have a long history and may not agree politically on certain things, when it came to health and humanity, the PPP demands that Nawaz is provided with the best treatment and added that he should be provided with whatever treatment he asks for.

"I hope the prime minister and his government think on humanitarian grounds," the PPP chairman said.

He noted that it did not send a "good message for Pakistan" at a time when there was an environment of war with India, and Pakistan was going to places and talking about human rights and democracy.

"It becomes difficult for us when a three-time prime minister is in jail and is unwell," Bilawal said and added that he believed that as far as health was concerned, the government should do whatever the prime minister feels is "appropriate" and added "it would be best if the government follows these things".

In response to a question about whether the Charter of Democracy (CoD) could be seen as the basis for today's meeting, the PPP chairman said that Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif had signed the CoD in 2006 and over the decades of doing politics what the two had learnt, they put the country in the right order.

He noted that the country could only function in a democracy and added that it was important to arrive at a code of conduct of how politicians should behave with each other.

Bilawal added that while the two parties had worked on elements on the CoD, it was their failure that the entire charter had not been implemented.

He said that the PPP believes that the basic principles of the CoD should be re-emphasised and the political challenges of today should also be discussed. He said solutions should be found to these challenges and while talking to other political parties in favour of democracy, a new document should simultaneously be prepared.

He re-emphasised that though he came to ask about Nawaz's health, they are politicians and they did discuss other matters including the CoD. Later, when asked again about what was discussed during the meeting, he said that they discussed the 2018 elections and the current government's role briefly, but the main focus was the former premier's health.

Bilawal also said reports about Nawaz searching for a deal or wanting to go to London were "people spreading conspiracies against Mian Sahib".

He noted that his father had spent eleven and a half years in jail and eventually been acquitted by the courts. However, during the time he [Zardari] spent in jail, there wasn't a single month where there were not reports that he had struck a deal with former president Gen Pervez Musharraf.

"Of course he [Nawaz] is unwell but I got no impression that there is a deal being made or Mian Sahib is ready to compromise. Mian Sahib is focused on his principles and, God willing, the PML-N will remain fixed on their principles," he said.

Sharif's daughter, Maryam Nawaz, also took to Twitter to thank the PPP chairman for his "thoughtfulness and kind gesture" of visiting her father.

Meeting requested

On Saturday, Bilawal had formally requested the interior ministry to allow him to meet Shairf in jail.

The PPP chairman was quoted as saying at a party meeting on Sunday that his visit was "on humanitarian grounds" and had "nothing to do with politics".

“I have no political agenda for the meeting. Nawaz Sharif sahib is unwell and deserves suitable treatment facilities.”

PPP's Punjab president Qamar Zaman Kaira, however, had said that discussion on political issues cannot be ruled out when two noted political leaders meet.

“When the country is passing through such a critical situation, it’s impossible that politicians won’t exchange their views on it.” But, he clarified that it does not mean that they are carrying a political agenda for the meeting.

Kaira had said that PPP Co-Chairperson Asif Ali Zardari will be meeting Sharif and those accompanying Bilawal will be he himself (Kaira), Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar, Jameel Soomro and Hassan Murtaza.

He also refuted reports that the PPP is thinking about convening a multi-party conference.