PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari on Monday announced that he will not appear before the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) on December 24, saying the call-up notice served to him by the anti-corruption watchdog is "unconstitutional and illegal".
NAB had summoned the PPP chairperson for a second time this month in the fake bank accounts and money laundering case on Dec 24 (tomorrow).
Addressing a press conference in Karachi, Bilawal accused the government of creating obstacles in his party's plans to observe former prime minister Benazir Bhutto's death anniversary on Dec 27.
During his presser that came just hours after senior PML-N leader Ahsan Iqbal was arrested by NAB in the Narowal Sports City (NSC) Project corruption case, Bilawal also challenged NAB to arrest him "if they have the courage".
Bilawal said he had been repeatedly announcing that the PPP would observe Benazir's death anniversary on Dec 27 in Rawalpindi, where she was assassinated. Despite this, he said, he was issued a call-up notice by the "NAB-government nexus".
He accused the government of "preventing a son from observing the death anniversary of his mother".
Bilawal claimed that the government has till yet not issued permission to hold the death anniversary observance ceremony and accused it of hindering PPP workers from making transportation arrangements in connection with the event.
"I will reach Liaquat Bagh on Dec 27 and observe Bibi's death anniversary in any condition," he announced, saying the nation needed to be shown a way out of its current state of despair.
He said former chief justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar had stated that the PPP chairperson had "nothing to do" with the fake case accounts case after receiving a report of the joint investigation team probing the matter.
Despite this, Bilawal said, he had appeared before NAB to answer its questions and also responded to the bureau's questionnaires.
"The PPP had neither come under pressure earlier nor will I come under any pressure today," the PPP leader declared, adding that he has conveyed to NAB through his lawyers that he will not appear before it on Tuesday.
Despite his objections regarding NAB's functioning, Bilawal said he will continue to appear before the bureau — but not on Dec 24 — because "I respect the rule of law of this country and I can face all these illegitimate accusations".
Bilawal accused the government of repeatedly "targeting" opposition parties and keeping their members incarcerated for months without charge. "What kind of accountability is this?" he asked, appealing to the judiciary to intervene and protect human rights.
He said the NAB chairman had revealed earlier this month that references were ready to be filed in the Peshawar Bus Rapid Transport (BRT) and Malam Jabba resort projects cases, but questioned whether any minister from the PTI-led Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government was issued a call-up notice.
Answering a question, Bilawal said there was no chance of him being arrested by NAB. "We are not scared of any arrest. I will be more dangerous for them if they arrest me.
"If you have the courage, then arrest me," the PPP leader said.
The case against Bilawal
Bilawal’s spokesman Senator Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar, in a statement on Friday, had confirmed that the PPP chief had received the notice for Dec 24 and alleged that the government was taking revenge from the opposition through NAB.
According to NAB, Bilawal had 25 per cent shares in a private firm, Opal-225, a joint venture of the Zardari Group.
PPP leaders have been accused of transferring billions of rupees to Opal-225 via fake bank accounts. The company also took loans of billions of rupees from banks.
The bureau is investigating the fake bank accounts and money laundering case against the PPP leaders and on Dec 9, the bureau had filed eight references in the Accountability Court of Islamabad.
On May 29, NAB had served a 32-point questionnaire to the PPP chairperson during his short appearance at the bureau’s headquarters.
The NAB headquarters had shifted the fake bank accounts and money laundering case from NAB Karachi to NAB Rawalpindi a couple of months ago.
The case involves 172 important personalities, including Bilawal, PPP co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari, his sister Faryal Talpur, former chief minister of Sindh Qaim Ali Shah, Anwar Siyal, Bahria Town founder Malik Riaz, and others.