Bilawal calls for resignation of NA speaker, deputy speaker over 'bias'

Published June 10, 2019
PPP Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto Zardari addresses a press conference hours after the arrest of his father Asif Ali Zardari. — DawnNewsTV
PPP Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto Zardari addresses a press conference hours after the arrest of his father Asif Ali Zardari. — DawnNewsTV

PPP Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, while addressing a press conference hours after the arrest of his father Asif Ali Zardari, 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. "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."

The National Assembly session on Monday 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 chairperson.

Suri had assured the protesting MNAs that Bilawal would be allowed to speak after Sheikh Rashid's speech. The deputy speaker said that he had given the floor to the railways minister because the latter wanted to respond to Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif, who had named Rashid in his speech.

"We have seen with our own eyes that when someone from the government indicates, the speaker gets up or sits down," Bilawal said in the press conference. "I wasn't allowed to speak in the National Assembly — I am a representative of the people of Larkana, an elected MNA."

'Censored' Pakistan

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.

"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 accused the government of wanting a "selected judiciary, selected media and selected opposition".

"Accountability means to [hold] the government accountable. Opposition's accountability is political victimisation," he insisted.

Speaking on the arrest of his father, 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 retired Gen Pervez Musharraf or that of General Ayub Khan? People were silenced then and the same is happening now.

"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."

Protest against inflation

Bilawal also condemned the rising inflation and said that he had announced to initiate a movement against increased prices after Eidul Fitr. He said that his party will decide a strategy in its Central Executive Committee meeting and share it with opposition parties.

He said that the new Pakistan, where people were promised jobs and better lives, has become a "punishment" for the citizens.

'I am not impatient'

"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.

"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?

"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 added that the PPP wishes to see the government complete its term.

"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.

"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. I am sure this government will complete its term and we will have elections again.

"PPP has always supported democracy [...] I am not impatient, I will continue to struggle just like my mother and grandfather."

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