Bilawal questions PM’s referendum offer to people of Kashmir

Published July 25, 2021
Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, accompanied by the Sindh chief minister, speaks in the provincial assembly auditorium on Saturday.—PPI
Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, accompanied by the Sindh chief minister, speaks in the provincial assembly auditorium on Saturday.—PPI

KARACHI: Calling Prime Minister Imran Khan an “unaware and confused” man, Pakistan Peoples Party chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari on Saturday questioned his offer of holding a referendum whereby Kashmiri people would be asked to decide whether they want to live with Pakistan or as an independent nation.

He warned that PM Khan’s “aimless policies” over the Indian occupied territory and neighbouring Afghanistan could lead to disastrous consequences for the country.

He also accused the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf of indulging in pre-poll rigging in the July 25 Azad Kashmir election and claimed that the PPP would win a majority of seats if transparent polling was held.

Speaking at a press conference at the Sindh Assembly Auditorium, he wondered why the Election Commission of Azad Jammu & Kashmir had so far not taken notice of the abusive language used by PTI’s federal ministers during electioneering in the valley, saying it left a question mark on the performance of the constitutional body.

Expresses concerns over the role of AJK’s Election Commission, demands transparent polling in the valley today

‘A confused man’

“I personally see him [PM Khan] as a confused man,” he replied to a question about the PM’s recent speech in Kashmir in which he announced a referendum whereby Kashmiri people would be asked to decide whether they want to live with Pakistan or as an independent nation after a UN-sponsored plebiscite.

“We [PPP] have a historical defined stand on Kashmir which is loud and clear. The people of Kashmir have the right to decide their fate and that’s it. He’s [PM Imran Khan] not only a confused man but also unaware of the history, Pakistan’s principled position and our decades-long sacrifices for this stand.

“Whenever he talks about Kashmir, he makes blunders. If a PM shares his thoughts over referendum, it always carries a larger impact. If you are talking about referendum in line with the UN policy then it’s more than welcome but if you are toeing the line of India’s PM Modi then please stay silent,” he said.

He also expressed serious reservations over the government policy on Afghanistan, where the Afghan Taliban were extending their control and the local administration was losing its writ with each passing day.

He warned that any wrong step and move in haste about the neighbouring country could lead to disastrous consequences inside Pakistan.

Call to ensure transparent polling today

In his press conference, the PPP chairman was more focused on the Kashmir elections, which are due today, and wanted the Election Commission to play its due role to keep the polling transparent and undisputed.

“The prime minister of Pakistan is addressing rallies when the election campaign is going on in Kashmir,” he said. “It’s a slap on the face of the Election Commission. The federal government is exercising its authority in Kashmir and their ministers were caught publicly distributing cash among the people. The EC should disqualify PTI candidates. Here I want to make it clear that if no action is taken, it would be the most controversial election in history,” he said.

He said that the AJK prime minister was using government resources in the election campaign and PM Khan and his ministers were also using same tactics when it came to exploiting state resource for their party candidates.

No party, he asserted, should have any complaint during the electioneering, but the EC had failed to provide a level playing field to candidates representing opposition parties.

“Imran Khan’s government was formed through rigging and his party continues to follow its tradition,” said Mr Bhutto-Zardari. “If there’s no rigging in tomorrow’s [July 25] elections, I am sure the PPP would emerge as the majority party. The reason is simple and known to everyone. We [the PPP] have been defending the Kashmir cause for three generations and the puppet government has abandoned the Kashmiri people.”

Published in Dawn, July 25th, 2021

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