PPP Chairperson Bilawal Bilawal Bhutto Zardari "completely and utterly condemned the state brutality" against party workers as he appeared before the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) in Islamabad on Wednesday in connection with the fake accounts case.
Two PPP MNAs and at least 30 party workers were taken into custody as the PPP chief appeared before NAB Rawalpindi for questioning. Party workers who had gathered at D-Chowk this morning to show support for Bilawal scuffled with police, who used water cannons and tear gas to disperse them.
A police source told DawnNewsTV that some 30-35 party workers had been taken into custody. The number included two female MNAs, Mussarat Rafiq Mahesar and Shazia Sobia.
Security had been tightened in Islamabad ahead of Bilawal's appearance before NAB Rawalpindi, with roads leading to the office closed to traffic, and law enforcement officials deployed around the premises. A notification issued by the capital administration a day earlier had directed the home secretaries of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab to ensure that political workers are prevented from entering Islamabad Capital Territory.
The notification, which stated that the gathering of PPP workers "may end up creating [a] law and order situation", was strongly condemned by the party's general secretary, Nayyar Bukhari and other senior party leaders, including Sherry Rehman and Farhatullah Babar.
Addressing a press conference following his appearance before NAB, Bilawal said that every Pakistani had the right to participate in democracy and had the right to the freedom of assembly as well as freedom of speech. Bilawal said that no emergency measures had been imposed in Islamabad nor had Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code been imposed in the capital.
Bilawal said that he had not given a call to workers but when news of his appearance before NAB emerged, some of the party workers and MNAs in Islamabad decided to accompany him to the accountability bureau.
"It is not written anywhere in the law that your companions cannot accompany you."
Bilawal said that despite this, PPP workers and elected members were attacked by the government of Prime Minister Imran Khan.
"Force was used against peaceful citizens," he said adding, "I don't even say peaceful protestors because they weren't protesting."
He said water cannons, tear gas and 'lathi-charge' was used against the PPP workers, adding that this was nothing new for them.
"We do not fear such tactics nor will we compromise on our principles or our ideology."
He said that the "old ways" of Interior Minister retired Brig Ijaz Ahmad Shah were becoming visible. "This should not take place in a so-called democracy."
Bilawal said that PM Imran was depending on conspiracies to seize all institutions of the country and to impose one-party rule. He added that no form of constructive criticism was being tolerated.
The PPP chief said that he had asked for a record of the video footage of today's incident and was ready to use all legal means.
Maryam Nawaz, a vice president of the PML-N, took to Twitter to condemn the violence against PPP workers.
In an oblique reference to PTI's 2014 'dharna', she said that the individual who had attacked the parliament, PM House and PTV, and held the capital hostage for four months could not tolerate a small protest for a day because he was scared.
Bilawal quizzed by NAB
PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari was questioned about the JV Opal case for 30 minutes by a combined investigation team headed by NAB Rawalpindi Director General Irfan Mangi, NAB sources told DawnNewsTV.
Bilawal, as per the sources, denied any connection to the allegations made by the bureau. The PPP chairman was given a questionnaire and asked to submit his response within 10 days.
Bilawal had last appeared before NAB on March 20, when he was grilled in three corruption cases.