PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari said on Friday that he had taken notice of reports of villagers being evicted by employees of Bahria Town and law enforcers in Karachi and demanded a report on the matter.
Addressing a press conference in Karachi, Bilawal said he had been busy on Thursday (yesterday) in the election campaign for the NA-249 by-poll but there were a lot of reports on the issue on social media and "complaints coming of injustice".
He said he had told Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah: "I've taken notice of the issue and a report should be given to me. All work which is going on there should be immediately stopped until the report doesn't arrive."
A day earlier, social media was abuzz with reports that employees of Bahria Town, aided by Sindh Police personnel, were forcefully evicting residents from their lands.
Qaumi Awami Tahreek President Ayaz Latif Palijo announced a protest in response to what he said was the "demolition of villages in Karachi by Bahria [Town] and the [provincial] government and injuring hundreds of people, including women."
Academic and activist Ammar Ali Jan had posted on Twitter that amid the coverage for the NA-249 by-elections, no attention was being paid to the "violent eviction of thousands of native villagers to appease Malik Riaz. This is 'democracy' of Bahria Town, by Bahria Town and for Bahria Town".
"These are scenes from Karachi. This is happening during Ramazan. There should be nation-wide protests to force [the] Sindh government to halt this operation," he had said.
The PPP chairman said the Supreme Court's (SC) decision was in front of everyone and neither he nor anyone else wanted to commit "contempt of court".
"We definitely want to focus on this that there's no injustice with anyone and especially if injustice has happened in yesterday's incident then action should be taken against those who supported this injustice," he said, adding that the affected people should get their rights and money according to the SC decision.
Bilawal claimed that not "one rupee" from the SC decision had been spent on the people of Malir and the PPP had been repeatedly requesting that "Malir and Sindh's money should be spent on Sindh. This is Sindh's money."
The PPP chairperson said that if the order for the boundary wall was given according to the SC decision, and no one could express reservations about it. He added, however, that "reservations can definitely be expressed" on why the locals of Malir had not to date received their rightful compensation according to the SC decision.
The SC had accepted Bahria Town Karachi's Rs460 billion offer for the lands it occupied in the Malir district of Karachi and restrained the National Accountability Bureau from filing references against it in March 2019.
It had then formed a high-powered commission to oversee the disbursement and utilisation of funds deposited by Bahria Town Karachi in October 2020. "The commission shall propose and suggest projects for public utility, including but not limited to health, education, infrastructure etc, for the people of Sindh," it had sad.
NA-249 by-poll success
The PPP chairperson also addressed the party's victory in the NA-249 by-election, saying "It has been once again proved after this historic success that Pakistan's nation are not with this government, they are with us and they are with the opposition." A day earlier, the PPP's candidate, Qadir Khan Mandokhail, emerged victorious after securing 16,156 votes.
Bilawal said an "ibratnaak" (scary) defeat had been dealt to the PTI-led government and the people had sent a clear message that "this selected government has been rejected by the people of Karachi".
"We think that this is the evidence of a new direction for Pakistan's politics that it is now being seen to be moving towards democratic forces."
He said because of the PPP's "consistent opposition and strategy of democratic opposition", it had managed to "defeat" the government in the previous by-elections as well as in the Senate election for the National Assembly seat.
Bilawal said the PPP had proved by winning a seat that everyone had said it wouldn't that "the propaganda which runs in the media won't be successful". Victory would belong to those, he said, who worked hard, supported the poor and remained beside them in difficult times.
"Now the test for us and PPP's supporters in Karachi has started. The people of Karachi in Malir and Baldia by-election proved that they are ready to support PPP and the PPP will also prove that we will try to work according to the hopes of the people of Karachi and will try with more effort to remove their problems with limited resources."
The PPP chairman said the party had managed to win this seat in the past as well. "This success is a win for all of Karachi that its real heirs — who live here, want to solve the people's problems here and don't want to make them fight one another — they've won and we have always said that when fair and transparent elections will happen, the PPP will bring these kinds of good results for you."
Justice Qazi Faez Isa case
Bilawal said that he, as the PPP chairman, had been among the first political leaders to condemn the "illegal and inappropriate action" taken against Supreme Court Justice Qazi Faez Isa and called for the removal of the individuals involved in sending the presidential reference against Justice Isa.
"They should have resigned after this kind of attack on the judiciary and when the SC and Supreme Judicial Council have acquitted (Justice) Qazi Faez Isa and unveiled this conspiracy then action should be taken against those people," he said, adding that an investigation should be carried out into the "conspiracy" in which an "honourable justice of the Supreme Court was made a target of political victimisation and character assassination".
"Pakistan's political parties, especially PPP, are used to this kind of behaviour and we in the past have been victims of judicial murder and political victimisation so we welcome this decision and development."
He expressed the hope that moving forward, the same standards against victimisation would be maintained as they were for a judge.
"We demand that the president of Pakistan resign. He has no moral authority to remain the president when he sent a wrong, false and fake reference against an honourable judge of the SC.
"There is no reason why our law minister remains the law minister and no reason why this accountability czar of theirs remains the accountability adviser. All of them should resign," said the PPP chairman.
He alleged that the prime minister and his entire cabinet had been complicit in this "crime" and had advised the president to send the reference. "Now they'll all have to give account of this crime and the sooner they justify themselves, the better it will be for the country and the people."
PDM and PML-N
Bilawal said the party's stance on the "decisions of the PPP central executive committee vis-a-vis the Pakistan Democratic Movement" remained unchanged and it was "firm" on it.
He said the PPP had laid down the basis for the alliance for the restoration of democracy and shown the political and democratic roadmap to the nation for getting rid of this "selected prime minister".
"Yousuf Raza Gilani's (Senate) election win was evidence of this, we proved this that no-confidence motions can be successful. If there are some friends of ours in the alliance who don't want to remove (Prime Minister) Imran Khan and (Punjab Chief Minister Usman) Buzdar sahab then what do I do about them?"
Responding to a question about accusations from the PML-N on the PPP's NA-249 victory, he termed them as "sad and unfortunate [...] irresponsible".
"You can put whatever accusation on the PPP but you can't prove that PPP has done any rigging. If someone is putting [forward] this accusation, then they should prove it."
He questioned that the by-election was being referred to as "Daska II" but where were the firing or kidnapped polling agents as had happened in the Daska by-poll. He said that PML-N leader Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and others were themselves present during the counting process and upon seeing their defeat, made the false accusation of rigging to cover it up.
"It was our collective effort to rid ourselves of this system of rigging that has always happened and if you look at Pakistan's history then which party did the most rigging? Which party is the original selected? And now who will they lecture?
"I think that instead of false accusations on democratic parties, our friends should do some introspection," said the PPP chairman.
Bilawal said that whether it was the Karachi by-election or the issue of the leader of the opposition in the Senate, the PML-N should "learn how to honourably accept defeat when they are defeated fairly and squarely in the electoral process".