PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari on Saturday assured Kashmiris that his party will not remain silent on the situation in India-occupied Kashmir and will fight their case with full force as their "true ambassadors".
Speaking to a large gathering on the occasion of PPP’s 52nd foundation day in Muzaffarabad, he took strong exception to Prime Minister Imran Khan for what he believed was poor advocacy of Kashmiris in the face of the August 5 move by the Indian government.
The foundation day event was held in K.H. Khurshid Stadium in the heart of the Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) capital to issue a fresh reminder of the fact that PPP was founded on the issue of Kashmir.
A sizeable number of women was among the charged gathering that kept on chanting pro-Bhutto slogans during the event.
“Over the past 117 days, Kashmir has been turned into an open prison where shops and schools are shut, where there are no medicines for patients, where internet and phone services are non-existent and where journalists and international organisations are disallowed entry,” said Bilawal, adding: “We cannot stay silent over this situation.”
He said PPP was the only party which had recognised and exposed Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi since the very beginning apart from asking others to understand the true nature of his actions.
“I had been saying since day one that Modi is an extremist who will not only turn out to be a curse for the people of India but will also push the whole region into fire and blood and therefore no talks can be held with him.”
He recalled that when he had been saying that the "friends of Modi" needed to be pushed away, he was dubbed as anti peace.
“Let me tell you that I and my party want peace but not at the cost of Kashmir.”
He alleged that Prime Minister Imran Khan had prayed for the victory of Modi on the premise that he would settle the Kashmir issue which was enough to judge his "mental backwardness".
“He (PM Khan) now says Modi is an activist of RSS and a follower of Hitler. May I ask: wasn’t he an RSS activist and Hitler’s follower when you were giving missed calls to him?”
The PPP chief said Modi was not only a threat to regional and global peace but also to India itself. “Several generations in India will harvest the fallout of Modi’s prejudices and idiocy.”
"Selected prime minister Imran Khan calls himself an ambassador of Kashmiris but what kind of ambassador is this who has neither himself visited nor sent any delegation to a single country and who could not table a resolution in favour of Kashmiris at any international forum amid the ongoing Kashmir crisis?
What kind of ambassador is this who talks of democracy in Kashmir but suppresses the same in his country, who talks of media freedom in Kashmir but is strangling press freedom in his country and who talks of political prisoners in Kashmir, but dumps his opponents behind bars in his country?” he asked.
The PPP chairman said Zulfikar Ali Bhutto is "the true ambassador of Kashmiris who had vowed to fight for them for one thousand years".
“Contrarily, our selected prime minister is reluctant to wage a war. If he is ready to strike a deal on Kashmir, it does not mean we have also agreed for a retreat. I want to assure Kashmiris that we will fight your case and let the whole world know that any deal on Kashmir is unacceptable.”
He said PPP stood for the right to self determination of Kashmiri people. "Humaara naara sab se bhaari — raaye shumaari, raaye shumaari (our slogan bears the most weight — referundum, referundum)," he shouted.
He said PPP not only gave the unanimous Constitution of 1973 but it had also devolved powers to the provinces through the 18th amendment.
The “rigging-ridden prime minister” had been tasked with rolling back the 18th amendment, he alleged, warning that the PPP would not let it happen.
“What kind of democracy is this in Pakistan that neither the people nor democracy, nor journalism is free. What kind of democracy is this where parliament is locked and the presidency has been turned into an ordinance factory?”
He said the prime minister "does not attend parliament sessions and had instead let loose his ministers to hurl abuses".
“We knew that this puppet prime minister is incompetent but we had no idea that he is so incompetent that he cannot properly do even the only one thing that he was tasked with,” he said, alluding to the matter of the army chief's extension.
“This issue will now be taken up by the parliament. It remains to be seen how those who could not properly issue a single notification and who could not enact a single law over the past one year will create consensus in the parliament on this sensitive and important legislation and amendment in the Constitution, that too within six months,” he said.
'Economy hostage to foreign forces'
He said the PTI government had also failed on other fronts and since its inception hardly any sector had escaped deterioration.
“Today, if we fail to take decisions to make our economic development possible, if we fail to give a respectable living to our people, if we fail to develop our employment and businesses, perhaps we will never be able to get rid of IMF [International Monetary Fund],” he said, adding, “Our economy will remain hostage to foreign forces which will always exploit our economic weakness for their interests.”
The PPP chairman said it was imperative to widen the tax base but not the way the PTI government was trying to – "by threatening and coercing people" who did not trust the government and who did not know where their money will be spent.
“You cannot collect tax from the business community by dubbing them thieves and dacoits. In order to widen your tax base, you ought to create a positive and conducive environment the way we have done in Sindh.”
In a clear reference to the businesses run by the army, the PPP chief said if the PTI government was sincere in its claims of making a unified Pakistan “it will have to rethink how long it will keep those institutions out of the tax net which are not supposed to do business but are the biggest of all business groups”.
“Everyone will have to put his share in the progress of this country. There cannot be any holy cows,” he added.
While stating that despite being an agriculture country, Pakistan’s agriculture sector was on the decline, the PPP chairman wondered if the prosperity of farmers was not in the list of priorities of the present government.
He alleged that the PTI government was giving relief to the rich and burdening the poor.
“They are committing economic slaughter of every segment of society. What kind of Pakistan is it where subsidy is being withdrawn from the farmers and where there is no increase in minimum wages and pensions for the elderly?"
He said instead of creating new jobs the government was depriving people of the existing employment opportunities.
“The tax amnesties and bail out packages are for the billionaires and for those thieves and thugs against whom [the PM] had been raising hue and cry over the past 20 years, but there is no relief for small shopkeepers, students and labourers.”
“Nonetheless, the government is shamelessly claiming that economy is heading in the right direction.”
Bilawal also alleged that the PTI government was hell bent upon destroying even those projects which were the lifeline of the country such as China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
Addressing the prime minister, he asserted that Zulfikar Ali Bhutto had laid the basis of Pakistan's relationship with China which was further strengthened by Benazir Bhutto and Asif Ali Zardari.
“This incompetent government tried to make CPEC controversial. But we will not allow this to happen, come what may. We know how to protect this project. We will not let the government take a U-turn on it,” he said.
AJK PM meets Bilawal
Earlier, AJK Prime Minister Raja Farooq Haider visited the PPP chairman at a local hotel and expressed his gratitude to him for expressing solidarity with Kashmiris in this critical time.
This, Haider told him, would send a positive message across the Line of Control and other parts of the world.
In response, Bilawal also praised Haider for effectively pleading the case of Kashmiris and representing their true sentiments at all international forums.
He announced that the Sindh government will extend assistance for the reconstruction of the earthquake-damaged infrastructure in Mirpur.
The PPP chairman was accompanied by former prime ministers Yousaf Raza Gillani, Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah among other party leaders.