KARACHI: In what appears to be the first claim of its kind against the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf government, Pakistan Peoples Party chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari on Monday called it the “most corrupt” in the country’s history and directly accused Prime Minister Imran Khan of leading the trend with the Abraaj Group as his “front” and “ATM” that was allowed illegal profiteering in Karachi through K-Electric, which the group owns.
He also claimed that KE — which was already under fire from political parties, provincial and federal governments and angry consumers — was enjoying inflated electricity tariff and allowed to carry out hours-long loadshedding without any check only because its parent company had close contacts with the prime minister and whose owner remained a key source of funding for the ruling party.
“It’s daylight robbery,” he told a press conference at the Sindh Assembly’s auditorium hall while waving and referring to a Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) report which he claimed had exposed all facts and “connivance” between PTI and the Abraaj Group.
Accuses Federal Minister Ali Zaidi of ‘minting money’ for prime minister in Peshawar BRT project
“This report is about Imran Khan’s ATM [the Abraaj group]. It’s being deliberately ignored by everyone. It exposes how the KE and the Abraaj Group [are] gouging Karachiites. Abraaj is Imran Khan’s front and ATM. Everyone knows this fact. This is a mega corruption scandal. But I challenge media to hold any show on this issue. I know ... you all would stay silent.”
In an aggressive and detailed presser, the PPP chairman apparently for the first time picked up on the alleged corruption of the PTI government as his focus, levelling serious allegations against key members of the federal cabinet and named close aides of the prime minister for running “rackets” with direct blessings of the premier.
He called the PTI government the “most corrupt government” in the history of Pakistan and questioned the role of the media, which he said during his party’s rule between 2008 and 2013 linked every scandal with the government and former president Asif Ali Zardari.
NAB not pursuing probes against PTI
He referred to the recent report of Amnesty International which highlighted serious issues of corruption in the PTI government and the Auditor General Pakistan who found misappropriation of Rs270 billion in the first year of PM Khan’s rule.
“But you don’t report,” the PPP chairman said while taking a jibe at the media. “Do you know that Punjab [government] is being run on jadoo and corruption? Who’s making every key appointment? Who’s awarding major contracts? And who’s making money? But you will never ask. From billion tree scandal to Akbar S. Babar’s foreign funding case and from flour, sugar and petrol crisis to corruption in BRT Peshawar project ... NAB is silent and so [is] the media. Because we [PPP] are the most corrupt people and they [PTI] are saints.”
He named several key men of the PTI government who he said were directly involved in corruption and counted number of inquiries against them pending before NAB which was not pursuing them.
Apart from questioning the status of cases and investigations against senior Punjab Minister Aleem Khan and raising issues of the money trail of the prime minister’s sister Aleema Khan, the PPP chairman came up with serious charges against another close aide of the premier.
“The BRT Peshawar project is a white elephant of corruption,” he said. “The frontman of Ali Zaidi [federal maritime affairs minister] is a contractor. This is the project which runs kitchen expenses of Imran Khan. It brings funds for election campaign. Ali Zaidi [is] in fact minting money but he meets all kitchen expenses of Imran Khan through this project,” he said.
“This is the double standard of accountability. On the one hand, the Sindh chief minister is summoned after every few weeks to Islamabad to appear before NAB and on the other corruption is going on under a legal cover. The Supreme Court’s stay order on Peshawar BRT project should be lifted. The inquiry into this mega corruption scandal should be carried out and completed.”
Centre intentionally cut coronavirus testing
The PPP chairman also criticised the policy of federal government with regard to the coronavirus pandemic and said it had deliberately reduced the number of tests apparently to prove its narrative and strategy a success.
He warned that Imran Khan was putting the whole nation at risk while ignoring health experts and warnings from medical scientists.
“The PTI government, whether the one at the centre or those in other provinces, is deliberately cutting down the number of tests,” he said. “They are putting the health system and people of Pakistan at risk. But let me assure you that we stand with our doctors and health workers. We are already conducting highest number of tests compared to other provinces and we are further building our capacity. We don’t want to give any wrong message.”
He said the PTI government is “treating Pakistani people as a fool” and was playing a dangerous game and undermining the threat for its political interest. It would not only prove “disastrous” but also bring a bad name to the country.
“A few days ago there was a ceremony with much media fanfare to mark 100 days of the NCOC [National Coordination and Operation Centre] showing that they are achieving results,” said Mr Bhutto-Zardari. “They are making themselves fools. We are told that the graph of coronavirus cases is on a decline. Is there anyone to tell them when you suspend the testing, the graph would not only decline, it would disappear on its own. It’s ridiculous.”
Opposition capable of ousting govt
When asked to comment on last week’s meeting between Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) chief Maulana Fazlur Rahman and former president Zardari, the PPP chairman, who was also present in that meeting, called it positive and quite effective and warned that the opposition parties still had the capacity to “throw out the government”.
“The PTI government is quite lucky in the sense that when it came to power the opposition parties extended their support and assured it to not launch any campaign despite serious reservations over the 2018 general elections,” he said.
“But this selected government is so incompetent that it has ruined everything within two years. We still warn them to not push us. If we decide to protest then we would take to streets from Karachi to Islamabad and drag them out of the government with people’s support,” he warned.
Published in Dawn, July 14th, 2020