No one was stopped from taking names during opposition conference: Bilawal

Published November 11, 2020
A screenshot of the interview with PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari. — DawnNewsTV
A screenshot of the interview with PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari. — DawnNewsTV

PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari has said that during the September 20 preparatory meeting of the opposition alliance – also known as the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) – it was stressed that the forum would "stand against the establishment" and "no one was stopped from taking names" either.

Bilawal made these comments during an exclusive interview with DawnNewsTV on Wednesday, in which he talked on a range of issues including the opposition alliance's future strategy and upcoming polls in Gilgit-Baltistan.

Responding to a question on whether there were disagreements within the opposition concerning its narrative after the PML-N supremo named the country's top military leadership during his speech at the PDM's first public rally, Bilawal said:

"While the all-parties conference didn't decide on naming anyone, it also did not stop anyone from taking names."

The PPP chairman said all opposition parties had agreed on a joint narrative which was also made public in the form of a joint resolution issued by the forum.

But he did go on to say that individual parties can have their own narratives and action plans. "This is a part of politics, it is their right and everything is in front of you."

Bilawal's comments come days after he revealed in an interview with BBC that he was "shocked" when he heard PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif's speech during the PDM's first rally in Gujranwala last month in which Nawaz named the country's top military leadership for orchestrating his ouster as PM and for "bringing Imran Khan into power".

In his speech, which was aired via video link from London, Nawaz had questioned who made the "state above a state" and who was responsible for the two governments in this country, going on to name Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa. He had also named ISI chief Lt Gen Faiz Hameed as being behind everything.

In the BBC interview, Bilawal had said neither Nawaz nor his party (PML-N) had brought up naming the army or ISI chiefs when the PDM's agenda was being prepared.

"During the all-parties conference, there was debate on whether the blame should be laid on one institution or the entire establishment," Bilawal told the BBC, adding that "it was decided that a single institution would not be named, the establishment would."

Bilawal went on to say that when he explicitly heard Nawaz take the names of the COAS and the ISI chief, he was "shocked".

Following Bilawal's interview with BBC, Minister for Information and Broadcasting Senator Shibli Faraz had said that the PPP chief's remarks were proof of the fact that the PDM was not united in its stance. "Bilawal has voiced his distrust of Nawaz. This proves that the alliance of opposition parties is based on vested interests," he added.

During his interview with DawnNewsTV earlier today, Bilawal dispelled the notion that the PML-N's narrative was not acceptable to other members of the opposition alliance.

"The PDM has one stance which is that the interference of establishment in politics has to end. This problem should be solved," he said.

"As fas as I know, the PPP emphasised that our stance against the establishment is a part of the [alliance]. We are standing on that. Somebody may well have given the suggestion that we should not open new fronts but whatever the PDM's united decision will be, we will all stand by it."

Bilawal said even though the PPP, PML-N, JUI-F and other parties part of the PDM may "do their politics separately, when it comes to democracy and the constitutional role of institutions, they are all on the same page".

He said an unsuccessful attempt was being made to divide and shroud the PDM in controversy, voicing confidence that such efforts would fail and the PTI government would have to "leave in February".

"Those who are distributing certificates of treason should know that the public has rejected this card. Imran Khan's stance is hollow.

"They're telling the people that those who stand with the PPP and PML-N are traitors. But the people know that Imran Khan is the one who gave NRO (National Reconciliation Ordinance) to Kulbhushan Jadhav. He is also the one who prayed for [Indian Prime Minister Narendra] Modi's win and bartered Kashmir," he added.

Talking about the possibility of a national dialogue and whether the judiciary and army should be part of that dialogue, Bilawal said:

"Dialogue is done with legitimate stakeholders. Parliament is the forum where a national dialogue can take place. But the speaker is selected and works on dictation, who will accept his leadership?" he questioned.

"I believe the solution to this is democracy. It should be through a democratic process. Ultimately we will have to form a truth and reconciliation commission which will solve this issue. This is part of the charter of democracy and our manifesto."

Responding to a question on the usage of Article 6, imposition of treason charges and court judgments based on the "doctrine of necessity", Bilawal recommended a constitutional amendment to do away with the doctrine.

"We are against this [doctrine of necessity] and will always be against it. If the courts do not [change it], we should address it through introducing a constitutional amendment."

'Welcome action on Karachi incident'

The PPP chairman said he welcomed the action on the 'Karachi incident'. "I talked to the army chief after the incident occurred and he told me that not only would it be investigated but action would be taken against those involved," he said.

"Action has been taken and it is a positive step. Such steps increase the integrity of the institution. Democratic forces should appreciate and encourage when a positive step is taken."

GB elections

Bilawal voiced apprehension about possible rigging in the Gilgit-Baltistan elections which are due to be held on Nov 15, alleging that polls had become controversial because of the premier.

"The elections are becoming controversial due to Imran Khan's measures. Despite a clear law, federal ministers are visiting the region," he said.

He lamented that the government was not careful and did not realise the "connotations of what would happen if the elections become controversial".

"We are highlighting issues in different areas. In Nagar, two of our candidates have been disqualified. We do have concerns but at the same time we hope that with the way the people of this region are supporting PPP, we will be able to overcome their tactics."

Responding to a question, he said that he would welcome election results, even if the PPP lost, if "free and fair elections were held".

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