Appointing ISI on Benami accounts JIT undemocratic precedent: Bilawal

PPP leader says anti-graft body is a tool being used for political engineering

Our Correspondent March 13, 2019
Bilwal Bhutto-Zardari speaking at a news conference at the Sindh Assembly on March 13, 2019. SCREENGRAB

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Pakistan Peoples Party Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has come out all guns blazing against the government and the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) amid reports that the country’s top graft-buster is preparing to file references in a multibillion-rupee money laundering case involving key PPP leaders.

“NAB is a bureau of political engineering which was established by the then military dictator Pervez Musharraf,” Bilwal said while speaking at a news conference at the Sindh Assembly on Wednesday. “Look at the Benami accounts. What is it? It’s an attempt at political engineering,” he added.

He went on to say that the case surfaced in response to a news conference he had addressed at Ghotki during the last general elections. He questioned the very rationale for the suo motu notice taken by the Supreme Court in the Benami accounts case.

PPP will go to war with anyone willing to rollback 18th amendment: Bilawal

At the Ghotki presser, Bilawal had said that democracy in Pakistan was in trouble and that “some forces that are still trying to weaken our democracy”. He had said that his party would not allow that to happen.

“The suo motu notice was taken based on purported slackness in investigation,” he wondered. “This is surprising because in this case the FIR had been registered, preliminary [investigation] report submitted and a banking court had already been hearing it,” he said.

He referred to the murder of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, assassination of Benazir Bhutto and Asghar Khan cases and asked if there was no slackness there. Shutting eyes to the blatant rigging in the 2018 elections, rampant violations of human rights and gagging of the media, the Supreme Court took suo motu notice in the Benami accounts case. “This shows that it was part of political engineering,” he alleged.

Bilawal vows to protect 18th Amendment

Bilawal also questioned the very formation of a joint investigation team to probe into the Benami case. “Then appointing ISI [Inter-Services Intelligence] on the JIT is an undemocratic precedent,” he claimed. “This not only politicises the ISI but also the judiciary. Rather this militarises the judiciary.”

The PPP chairman also condemned the arrest of Sindh Assembly Speaker Agha Siraj Durrani by NAB calling it ‘regrettable and shameful’. “The bureau of political engineering arrested Durrani from Islamabad on trumped up charges. And I condemn this in the strongest words,” he said.

“Today, I’ve come here to express solidarity with the Sindh Assembly, to show solidarity with the office of its speaker. Everybody knows that this was the first assembly which had passed the Pakistan resolution,” he added. “Speaker Sindh Assembly is not a position of the PPP. It’s a constitutional position.”

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Bilawal said that income beyond means is a vague term which NAB used for political engineering and vendetta.

He also said that the incumbent chief justice had announced that the journey of truth has been initiated in the court and people want to see free, fair and impartial judicial system.

Despite the propaganda against the PPP, people of Sindh elected the party into power due to its “historic development and services for the masses”, Bilawal said.

“The PTI is conspiring against the Sindh government because they cannot outclass the PPP in performance and development,” he added.

Complete transcript of Bilawal's speech

I came to the Sindh assembly today and met with speaker Agha Siraj Durrani and presided over a meeting of the Sindh assembly's parliamentary party of the PPP. I have come with a message of solidarity with the Sindh assembly. As we all know, the Sindh assembly passed the Pakistan resolution. This House is the first to do so. Durrani is not PPP's office as it is a constitutional office elected by the member of the House. It is regrettable and shameful that an attack on the Sindh assembly was made. The Musharraf era's body arrested the speaker of the Sindh assembly from Islamabad. Agha Siraj Durrani is a politician of Pakistan and belongs to the PPP and is our senior representative. It's his second term as speaker of Sindh assembly. His father and uncle both were speakers of the Sindh assembly. This is a position that is elected by the whole house and it is an important office. The NAB which is a bureau of political engineering arrested the Sindh speaker assembly in Islamabad on trumped up charges which is highly condemnable. We object and condemn it in the strongest words. The NAB's claim of assets beyond means is similar to the police charging and framing a poor person by planting dope or wine on him. These assets beyond means allegations can be leveled at anyone.The raid on Durrani's home after arrest proves there was no evidence or that evidence was implanted like in the past. This is the message that is being given, the way the sanctity of the house was violated will not be tolerated. This is against our culture, human rights and religion. The way the children and women were subjugated and harassed we condemn it. The Sindh CM also condemned it. The NAB chairman never took any action against this step. This silence is giving us the message that the chairman NAB condones it. I demand that the chairman NAB hold them responsible and take action. The society that functions according to the rule of law does not go about this. Once again I emphasise that NAB should not be used for political engineering. It was found for political engineering and the NAB is a black law and Shaheed Benazir Bhutto had in her charter of democracy and manifesto said that we have to bring an end to this institution. It is a sort of failing on our part that we could not make any reforms in it. NAB is an institution such that it will be used for political victimisation or as a tool of political engineering no matter how good a person you appoint as its head. Some institutions till today are being used for political engineering. Our Benami accounts case is political engineering. What is the rationale of taking Suo motu during election on such cases? Suo motu was taken on the slackness of an investigation. This does not fall within the domain of Suo Motu or human rights violation. This case was not slackness as FIR was registered in this case and preliminary report was also present and the case is underway in the banking court. How can you say it is slackness? If this case is slackness then Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto case is not slackness? Then the Benazir Bhutto assassination case is not slackness? The Asghar Khan case is not slackness? You make slackness of a case as human rights violation and also take Suo motu notice. The worst rigging in the history is not visible to you. Curtailing the freedom of speech and press is not visible to you. The message goes that it is being done for political engineering. Balance is not rule of law. You cannot say in open court that we want to balance and form a JIT and then making the ISI sit on top of it is a non-democratic unprecedented which not only politicises the ISI but militarises the judiciary. I think it is a wrong decision. The way the CM and I have our rights undermined according to article 10 A which guarantees free and fair right. Our character assassination was carried out for 6 months but not even once the CM Sindh or I had the opportunity to present our case before any court. No court even gave notice to us. Rule of law and justice cannot be served this way that the accused be sentenced without hearing. The system cannot continue in this way in the country. Another effort that is underway to shift the case to Rawalpindi is an obvious violation of the concept of jurisdiction. The trial is conducted where the crime happens but every time our case is taken to Rawalpindi. We are ready but if you are running according to the rule of law then follow it. The case, FIR, accused, bank account and the transaction are all from Sindh but the case in Rawalpindi. What is special about Rawalpindi? I am being dragged into the case for political engineering. The entire nation heard and saw it that the CJP in the open court summoned the ISI leader and questioned who asked you to put Bilawal's name in the JIT. I have not received the answer to this day. In the same hearing in front of Pakistani and the legal fraternity the attorney general and all journalist community of the country, the order that Bilawal is innocent and his name should be removed from the JIT and the ECL came but in the written order these sentences are not present which must have been written by someone else. I am surprised that how when we go to the review, one judge says that this never happened and you misunderstood it. No rebuttal or contradiction came on this report even though the SC has the best media cell. This is absurd. This can be an innocent mistake, I request the honorable SC to check the records of tapes and transcripts, and this undermines the credibility of the judiciary. Democracy cannot be strengthened until the courts are strengthened. Justice should be done and also seem to be done. CJP Khosa said that the journey of truth has started and we hope it will start now. We want to see a strong, free and impartial judiciary in Pakistan. The ZAB and BB made efforts for this. This impression should not go with this as our history shows that whenever a dictator came he was given the clean sheet by the court. This impression cannot go that the courts still today support political engineering or the courts would even think about being a party to the conspiracy against the 18th amendment. We want the respect of the courts to increase. The judges have a good reputation. They will make decisions in favor of the nation, 1973 constitution and 18th amendment because this will serve democracy. Justice should be seem to be done and for this we cannot have so much difference between a verbal and written order. If there is going to be completely opposing view between a verbal and short order or a verbal order and a final order then it should be announced again. You cannot one night declare someone innocent and then in the written order you sentence him to hanging, I am also surprised at the court's decision on police. I think it is an attack on the 18th amendment and devolution. The police law and order have always remained a subject of the province before the 18th amendment. In the SC's short order they accepted it and said it is a provincial subject and we took action according to it but then in the written order something lese came out that The federal govt can also to do it. we do not agree with it obviously. We will go into review. I will struggle politically and convey it to the nation. Attacks are being made on the 18th amendment and democracy by the political and judicial circles. Our NICVD, JPMC, NICH, which are world's best hospitals with the efforts and money of Sindh. I challenge anyone to see the NICVD, NICH and JPMC of and 2007 and then compare it with 2018. In 2018, the NICVD is the biggest place of heart operation. They have opened small hospitals all over Sindh. We improved the NICH and JPMC and made it a world class hospital where cyber knife treatment is provided for cancer, there are only 200 hospitals that have these machines and we have one. we will not let you snatch our rights; we will go into review and to the nation and will foil this conspiracy. It cannot happen that the BB gives her life and struggles for 30 years to restore the 1973 constitution and when its party is elected we through a consensus of more than two-thirds restore the 1973 constitution in the shape of the 18th amendment and then some unelected person who is a dictator with a stroke of pen end it in which so much blood and sweat is involved. This will not happen. The PPP will not compromise on the 18th amendment. PPP will not compromise on democracy or human rights or economic rights. We are an ideological party and we have been working on it since three decades. We are a democratic and progressive party. We challenged the militants and sacrificed our lives I have been raising voice against the banned parties. I have talked about implementing the NAP many times. How will the opposition be convinced that the govt is serious on implementing the NAP and taking action against the banned organisations when we know that they were your allies in election? Banned organisations were brought in election again after rebranding so that the PTI will receive support. If accountability is present for opposition, if they can be arrested and put to trial or any critic of the govt whether he is a small blogger or a youth from FATA, then the entire state apparatus is used against him. What message are you giving to the world that there is NRO for the banned organizations and immunity for the banned organizations, but you hang the first elected PM of Pakistan? How can you sentence BB and Zardari on one phone call but you don't action against banned organisations that kill innocent people and engage in terrorism. How can this happen that a three times elected PM is in jail Koth Lakh Pat and is sick but still behind bars. But banned outfits cannot be arrested. The Sindh assembly speaker is arrested in a fake case from Islamabad but no banned outfit is arrested on assets beyond means. Make a JIT on how they get their assets. This question is a difficult one but must be answered. We are not taking action against banned outfits on Indian threats or American or German phone calls. We have been working against them and struggling to implement the national action plan since a long time. This was our demand yesterday and still is today for Pakistan to be saved. Obviously the intention of the govt will be doubted. If our PM can talk against opposition and take action also but cannot say anything against banned outfits and Modi then what sort of PM is he? Only the opposition is in his sight. You have to be the country’s PM and fight the country’s opponents not personal opponents. There will be doubts on their intention. The role of MML is in front of you, they were brought in the elections and mainstream to benefit PTI. The HUM which is banned by the UN and banned by Pakistan, his leader was with Asad Umar and also announced joining and supporting the PTI in front of the media. How can we believe that you will take action? We will only accept when you take some confidence building measures. Our former demand is being reiterated that a joint parliamentary national security committee needs to be formed for both the houses of the parliament which will oversee the entire country’s national security policy and NAP and its implementation. Both the houses must check the implementation of the NAP. The PTI has to distance itself from past statements and actions in support of banned organisations. They have to draw a line in the sand that it was the old PTI and now a new PTI is there. We cannot afford and Pakistan cannot afford to have the doubt hanging over the head of the PM. There are three ministers having a record and history when it comes to banned organisations. I won’t take their name but will be forced to do so if action is not taken against them. One minister publicly met banned organisations during election and still to this day believes that if you talk against the banned organisations and terrorism and when you demand action against banned organizations which killed women and children in Balochistan and FATA then you are giving a anti-state statement. The treatment that is being meted out to the opponents in the name of accountability must be highlighted. Regarding the promises and commitment that they have made and what they had promised in their manifesto and their public claim that they will take action against banned organisations and are taking action, I have to keep them accountable. I can only think that the government is serious about taking action against banned organisations within Pakistan if they form the national security committee of both the houses of the parliament and distance themselves from past action and statements in support of banned organizations and remove the three ministers I have referred to who have had an association with banned organisations. This is necessary for strengthening of democracy and the federal system and our survival and for the future of the country. It is important that we take on extremists. And it is also important that we strengthen our democracy and we preserve our human rights. We preserve our freedom of speech and protest and economic rights.................

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