KARACHI: Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has once again warned the government against any attempt to roll back the 18th Amendment and said he would launch a long march to foil such a move.
Addressing the ‘Meet the press’ programme at Karachi Press Club, the PPP leader said, “We will foil the conspiracy of selected prime minister to weaken democracy and parliament and snatch the rights of the provinces.”
Referring to the former chief justice’s move to impose taxes on mobile phone cards and other commodities, he asked why the courts were imposing taxes in Pakistan. “If other institutions can become hyperactive then why not parliament? I want to see parliament being active.”
Criticising the court’s decision to hand over the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre, National Institute of Cardiovascular Diseases (NICVD) and National Institute of Child Health (NICH) to the federal government, the PPP chairman said, “It is an attack on the 18th Amendment and violation of the 1973 Constitution”.
The PPP leader added that these health facilities were handed over to the Sindh in the light of the 18th Amendment and the provincial government had invested billions of rupees in making them state-of-the-art institutions of the country.
“Before the 18th Amendment, the NICVD charged heavy fee from patients and was run on donations. We not only developed it as an international cardiac institute with billions of rupees, but also launched cardio-satellite centres in other districts of the province,” the PPP leader said.
He added: “The NICVD has become the only health institute in the region which provides large-scale health facilities to the patients without charging a single penny. For the first time in history, we introduced CyberKnife robotic radio surgery for the cancer patients, and that too, free of cost.”
He reiterated that the Sindh government had decided to file a review petition against the Supreme Court’s decision and would avail every option, including “long march”, to bring health institutions back to the provincial government and save the 18th Amendment.
The PPP leader accused the government of taking steps against the media. “There is pressure on media. Press clubs and journalists have rendered sacrifices for revival of democracy in the country. Without media’s support, true democracy is impossible, but the incumbent government unfortunately is depriving the media of its rights.”
He announced that he would visit press clubs in the country and said, “We believe in freedom of speech and will resist against any ban or censorship on media.”
The PPP chairman, while criticising Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar, said, “Our selected prime minister is drawing a parallel between Wasim Akram and Buzdar. It will be injustice with Wasim Akram. We want to remove Buzdar because of his incompetence to run the big province.”
Talking about inflation and governance, Bilawal referred to the recently presented ‘mini-budget’. “They presented the budget in haste and did not even initiate debate on government reforms. Should not we call this a cowardly step of the government?”
The PPP chairman reminded the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf leadership about its commitments made to the people before the elections. “Where are your economists and billions of dollars that you were supposed to get from overseas?”
He accused the prime minister of failing to fulfill his promises. “You had promised to provide 10 million jobs and five million homes. Instead of fulfilling your pledge, you are rendering people jobless and homeless by destroying their homes and depriving them of their livelihood.”
He, however, discouraged encroachment and said, “We do not support any kind of illegal occupation or encroachment. But there should be proper arrangement to resettle the poor people on humanitarian grounds.”
To a question about relief given to the prime minister’s sister Aleema Khan and Jahangir Tareen, he remarked, “They are pleasing their own people, but do not have any relief for the poor”.
Replying to a question about the railways minister, the PPP leader said, “You can ask me about gutters of Pindi, but don’t ask me about Sheikh Rashid.”
When asked about Pak-India relations, the PPP chairman said Pakistan needed to improve relations with its neighbour. “We can’t change our neighbours so we have to build best relations with them.”
On the occasion, the Karachi Press Club awarded Bilawal with honorary membership.