Bilawal asks govt to quit if ‘judges’ surveillance’ reports proved true

Updated February 22, 2020

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Criticises PM for assigning task of probe into sugar price scam to premier intelligence agencies. — DawnNewsTV/File
Criticises PM for assigning task of probe into sugar price scam to premier intelligence agencies. — DawnNewsTV/File

LAHORE: Expressing concerns at reports of surveillance of higher courts’ judges, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari has said that the government should resign if such reports are true.

“Espionage of higher courts’ judges is a serious issue. The government will have to clarify it, inform the nation and the parliament why the Chief Justice of Pakistan and other judges are being spied on,” he said while talking to the media at the residence of party leader Begum Belum Hasnain here on Friday.

Qamar Zaman Kaira, Chaudhry Manzoor and others were also present.

“The fact surfaced after resignation of the attorney general and it’s like a direct assault on the independence of the judiciary,” the PPP chief said.

Referring to former prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani’s disqualification for not writing a letter on the directive of the judiciary, he said if a prime minister could be sent home packing for not writing a letter then why cannot the one on charges of espionage of judges?

Criticises PM for assigning task of probe into sugar price scam to premier intelligence agencies

Responding to a query about Federal Minister Fawad Husain Chaudhry’s letter to the National Assembly speaker asking for return of ‘long missing’ Opposition Leader Shahbaz Sharif from abroad or appointing another MNA to the slot, Mr Bhutto-Zardari said going by this formula the minister should first replace the prime minister as Imran Khan was absent from the parliament for an even longer period.

Moreover, he said the issue of absence of the opposition leader better be decided by the opposition parties and the government should not interfere into the matter.

He chided the prime minister for assigning the task of probe into sugar prices scam to two premier intelligence agencies and said if the government was so much incapable that it could not even investigate price hike without the help of security agencies.

Alleging that the government misstated about tax revenue targets during negotiations with the IMF, he said the international lending agency talked to its own representatives in Pakistan (a reference to the PM’s adviser on finance Hafeez Sheikh and State Bank of Pakistan Governor Reza Baqir, who are former employees of the IMF).

He lamented that the government was ill-prepared for talks with the IMF while it remained indecisive for about a year on whether to go to the world body for a bail-out package or not.

He said the government could not protect national economic interests in the talks. He said the government might strike a deal with the IMF but not at the cost of the poor. He lamented that without fighting for the cause of the poor, the PTI government accepted all terms and conditions imposed by the IMF in return for its bail-out package.

He said the PPP government (2008-13) too had negotiated with the IMF, but it never accepted the terms that hit the poor of the country.

The PPP leader said the government released Indian pilot (Abhinandan Varthaman) involved in Balakot air strikes and (Taliban spokesperson) Ehsanullah Ehsan escaped from the custody as the government was only taking symbolic measures to drive the country out of FATF grey list and that extremism and terrorism could not be countered this way.

He criticised the PTI government for striking out 0.9 million beneficiaries from the Benazir Income Support Programme, regretting that the step was taken at a time when inflation and unemployment were at their peak in the country.

“I curse the ministers and politicians who have abandoned the destitute.”

Mr Bhutto-Zardari said that the national economy was passing through difficult times as the government was facilitating the rich instead of the poor and trying to document the economy through use of force by the FIA, NAB and FBR. He said the economy could not be documented in a day, adding that it required a proper process and time.

According to the PPP chairman, not being in the tax net doesn’t mean that an individual is a thief or robber. He regretted that the business community had been frightened through conditions, like imposition of the condition of the national identity card for shopping of Rs50,000 or more.

Published in Dawn, February 22nd, 2020