In noisy NA session, Bilawal endorses PTI’s call for judicial inquiry into May 9 riots

Published March 4, 2024
PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari speaks in the National Assembly on Monday. — DawnNewsTV
PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari speaks in the National Assembly on Monday. — DawnNewsTV

In his maiden speech during a session of the newly elected National Assembly, PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari on Monday endorsed the PTI’s call for a judicial inquiry into the May 9 riots.

He passed these remarks in reference to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Ali Amin Gandapur’s recent call for the formation of a judicial commission to probe the violent protests that erupted across the country following PTI founder Imran Khan’s arrest on May 9 last year.

“I call upon the chief justice Supreme Court of Pakistan (Justice Qaez Faiz Isa) to form [a judicial commission] and see who are the beneficiaries [of May 9],” Gandapur had said in a fiery speech after being elected the chief executive of KP.

Speaking on the floor of the lower house of the Parliament today, Bilawal said he endorsed Gandapur’s demand. But at the same time, he stated that the result should be accepted by everyone, including the Imran-led party.

“It is not possible that someone attacks our institution and the memorial of our martyrs and we forget it,” the ex-foreign minister said. “We cannot take our politics forward unless we address this issue and this is why the PPP appeals to the prime minister to form a judicial commission […] Chief Justice Qazi Faez Isa should form the commission,” he added.

Bilawal went on to say that an extensive investigation into the May 9 events would bring clarity. “I will call for the punishment [of those proven guilty] and I will call for the release [of those who are innocent],” he said.

The PPP leader also extended support to the PTI regarding the latter’s demand for a probe into election irregularities.

In his hour-long speech — which was disrupted by noisy protests from the opposition benches — the PPP leader backed PM Shehbaz Sharif’s call for a charter of national reconciliation.

“Not only do we endorse it but also appeal to our friends from the opposition that they take part in this process,” said Bilawal. He also congratulated the newly elected chief ministers of all four provinces and highlighted the need for them to play their role to save Pakistan’s “democracy and economy”.

Pointing toward the opposition, he said: “The people of Pakistan are tired of poverty, unemployment and inflation […] they did not give you their vote for you to come here and abuse each other and create a ruckus.”

Bilawal further stated that Pakistan was in dire need of judicial and electoral reforms, expressing his party’s willingness to partake in conversations regarding the same.

‘Will not bow down’

Meanwhile, PTI-backed lawmaker Asad Qaiser asserted that neither his leader Imran Khan nor the party would “bow down”.

In an impassioned speech on the floor of the house, he said: “I want to make this clear; that time of fear has passed. We have come out of all situations headstrong.”

Qaiser also demanded that the Supreme Court constitute a judicial commission on the cipher controversy, which is at the heart of the PTI’s allegation of foreign involvement in the party’s ouster.

“Our party’s stance on it is clear; that the Supreme Court constitutes a judicial commission,” he said, lamenting that cipher was used as the basis of Imran’s conviction and subsequent punishment.

Qaiser further stated that a judicial commission should be formed to probe allegations of rigging in the Feb 8 polls. “We want to invite all those parties that have concerns about these elections, whether they are Balochistan’s political parties or Sindh’s or Punjab or Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s.

“We will bring everyone together for the Constitution’s supremacy, for an independent judiciary, for civilian supremacy,” the PTI leader added.

On the other hand, PTI Chairman Gohar Ali Khan termed the PM’s election — which saw Shehbaz emerging victorious — a “sad day for democracy”.

“None of us imagined that such a person would be elected, that the switch of Pakistan’s atomic power would be handed over to someone who does not have a public mandate and has been in power for four decades,” he said.

Gohar further alleged that Bilawal had “buried” his grandfather’s politics and assailed the PPP and the PML-N for “dynasty politics”. He claimed that Imran “brought an end to dynasty politics” and was the reason why a worker like himself was appointed as the PTI chairman.

Ruckus and interruptions

Bilawal’s speech was marred by intense sloganeering from PTI-backed lawmakers who chanted ‘go Nawaz go’, prompting several warnings from NA Speaker Ayaz Sadiq.

Similarly, Sadiq also expunged Bilawal for using the word “cartoons” while referring to the opposition members. The PPP leader also acknowledged that he shouldn’t have said those words and allowed them to be expunged.

Earlier, members of the treasury benches greeted newly elected Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif as PTI-backed lawmakers chanted slogans of ‘shame shame’.

Meanwhile, interruptions were also witnessed in the YouTube livestream of the session. During his speech, Bilawal condemned the raid on Pashtoonkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) Chairman Mahmood Achakzai’s residence last night. The nationalist leader is also the PTI’s nominee for the presidential elections.

The PPP leader urged Balochistan Chief Minister Safaraz Bugti and PM Shehbaz to take notice of the raid and then gave the floor to Achakzai. However, as soon as the PkMAP leader began speaking, the Parliament’s YouTube livestream inexplicably ended.

It must be noted that Achakzai last week delivered a forceful speech in the NA against the alleged role of the military establishment in politics and in support of the jailed PTI founder Imran Khan.

Apart from Achakzai, the speeches of PTI-backed lawmakers Asad Qaiser, Omer Ayub Khan and Balochistan National Party’s Akhtar Mengal were also disrupted in the NA’s YouTube livestream today.

Ayub complained of the same at the beginning of the NA session, saying that his speech in the house yesterday was censored.

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