PAKISTAN Peoples Party chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari speaking at the rally.—Online
PAKISTAN Peoples Party chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari speaking at the rally.—Online

MUZAFFARABAD: Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari on Saturday assured the Kashmiris that his party would not remain silent on the situation in India-occupied Kashmir and would instead fight their case with full force.

Speaking to a large gathering on the occasion of PPP’s 52nd foundation day, he criticised Prime Minister Imran Khan for what he believed poor advocacy of Kashmiris in the face of the Aug 5 move by the Indian government.

The foundation day function was held in K.H. Khurshid Stadium in the heart of the Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) capital to “renew the bonds between the PPP and the Kashmiris”.

A sizeable number of women were 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,” Mr Bhutto-Zardari said and added: “We cannot stay silent over this situation.”

He said PPP was the only party that had exposed Indian prime minister Narendra Modi in the very beginning, apart from asking others to understand his reality.

“I have been saying from 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 said Prime Minister Imran Khan had been praying for the victory of Modi in Indian elections on the premise that the latter would settle the Kashmir issue, in what was enough to judge his mental backwardness.

He said “selected prime minister” Imran Khan called himself an ambassador of the Kashmiris but what kind of ambassador was this who had neither visited himself nor sent any delegation to any 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 added.

The PPP chairman said Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was the true ambassador of Kashmiris who had vowed to fight for them for one thousand years.

Accusing the PTI government of having failed on all fronts, he said 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 the IMF [International Monetary Fund],” he said.

Mr Bhutto-Zardari said it was imperative to widen the tax base but not the way the PTI government was trying to do it — by threatening and coercing people who did not trust it and who did not know where their money would be spent.

He announced that his party would hold the main function to mark the martyrdom anniversary of Benazir Bhutto on Dec 27 at the place where she had embraced martyrdom.

PPP leaders Yousuf Raza Gilani, Nayyar Bukhari, Qamar Zaman Kaira, Ali Mohammad Jattak, Hamayun Khan, Nisar Khuro and Chaudhry Latif Akbar also spoke.

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 the Kashmiris in this critical time.

Published in Dawn, December 1st, 2019