Bilawal, Qureshi take their war of words to social media

Published July 2, 2021
In this combo photo, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi (right) and PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari speak on the floor of the National Assembly on Wednesday. — Photo courtesy NA Twitter
In this combo photo, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi (right) and PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari speak on the floor of the National Assembly on Wednesday. — Photo courtesy NA Twitter

ISLAMABAD: After having a verbal clash with Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari in the National Assembly on Wednesday, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi took to Twitter to criticise the PPP chairman over his act of asking the country’s premier intelligence agency to tap his telephone calls.

Mr Bhutto-Zardari, who is also active on social media, took no time in responding to Mr Qureshi, saying the minister “does not have a sense of humour”.

“Chairman of the National Assembly Human Rights Committee and preacher of democratic norms and traditions, openly called for phone tapping of an elected parliamentarian. So much for fundamental rights, rule of law and democracy,” tweeted Mr Qureshi while slamming Mr Bhutto-Zardari, who is also the chairman of the human rights committee of the lower house of parliament.

“Let the record be clear that the foreign minister of Pakistan does not have a sense of humour,” responded the PPP chairman, also on Twitter.

FM says ‘so much for democracy’ over PPP leader’s phone tapping proposal; PPP chairman taunts minister doesn’t have a sense of humour

The two tweets generated a debate on social media between supporters of the two parties. The supporters of Mr Qureshi criticised Mr Bhutto-Zardari over his alleged double standards, saying that on the one hand, the PPP talks about non-interference of army and ISI in politics and, on the other, the party chief is himself dragging the institutions into politics.

The PPP supporters, however, were found to be defensive and their main argument was that Mr Bhutto-Zardari did not mean what he said and that he had said it only in a sarcastic way.

The two leaders had exchanged barbs in the National Assembly on the last day of the budget session and even passed some personal remarks when Mr Bhutto-Zardari questioned the legitimacy of the Finance Bill 2021 passed by the house a day ago and accused the speaker of being biased.

There was complete ruckus in the house due to loud sloganeering from both treasury and opposition benches when Speaker Asad Qaiser once again gave floor to Mr Qureshi to respond to the PPP leadership, who had earlier blasted the minister on “a point of personal explanation”.

Mr Bhutto-Zardari had in his hard-hitting speech alleged that when Mr Qureshi was the foreign minister in the previous PPP government, he ran a campaign at the international level to become prime minister in place of Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani.

At this point, the young politician said that he would request Prime Minister Imran Khan to ask Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI) to tap Mr Qureshi’s telephone calls to know the truth.

Mr Bhutto-Zardari had stated that it was because of this act of Mr Qureshi that he was “sacked” from the cabinet. He also warned the treasury members that Mr Qureshi had become a “threat” for the government as he himself wanted to become prime minister.

“We know this member from Multan far better than you,” the PPP chairman had said while pointing towards the treasury members belonging to the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf, asking them to “wait and see, what he does with your prime minister”.

“Khan Sahib [Prime Minister Imran Khan] will soon come to know what kind of a person he [FM Qureshi] is,” the PPP chairman said.

Mr Qureshi had served as foreign minister in the previous PPP government under President Asif Zardari from 2008 to 2011 and he was reportedly removed from the ministry after the Raymond Davis incident.

Taking the floor again, Mr Qureshi said if the PPP chairperson knew him well, he too had known Bilawal since he was a baby.

“I knew him since he used to stand in the corner and get scolded. I know him as well as his baba [father],” Mr Qureshi said, adding that the PPP leadership used to provide chits to the “child” (Bilawal) who then started reading them with “switched on and off” on auto.

Published in Dawn, July 2nd, 2021

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