RAWALPINDI: Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari has said that any attempt by the government to get Sindh Chief Minister (CM) Murad Ali Shah arrested without evidence would cause irreparable damage to the federation while putting his party on a collision course with the Centre.
"There is no reason morally, constitutionally and otherwise for the arrest of Murad Ali Shah. If he is arrested, then it will be a bad omen for the federation because he is the chief executive of a federating unit who has been elected with overwhelming majority," Bilawal said while speaking to the media outside the Adiala Jail where he had gone to visit his incarcerated father.
The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) is investigating Murad's alleged role in offering subsidies to sugar mills through improper channels during his time as Sindh's finance minister. Murad had also skipped a hearing earlier this month when NAB investigators were in Karachi to question him, with the rumour mill suggesting that the anti-graft watchdog even had plans to detain him. It was around the same time senior PPP leader Khursheed Shah was taken into custody for having assets beyond known sources of income.
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Bilawal pointed out that from the investigations and arrest, it was amply clear that the government was using the NAB as a tool of political victimisation.
"The selected Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government has imprisoned political opponents despite having zero evidence. This is victimisation, not accountability," he said.
He also issued a stern warning to the government, saying Murad's arrest would result in widespread protests.
"His arrest will be like crossing a red line for the PPP. The reaction will be so strong that you will forget about the Azadi March," he said referring to the nationwide protest proposed by the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam.
Bilawal also once again ruled out joining the JUI-F spearheaded march that envisions bringing the capital to a standstill, saying the PPP has a clear policy regarding 'dharna (sit-in) politics' while assuring the JUI-F of moral support.
He also quashed rumours of any deal with the government on the lines of the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO).
"We are proud that my father, Asif Ali Zardari, is unwilling to compromise on principles like Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto," he said, adding that his father had previously spent over 11 years in prison on trumped charges and was later exonerated.
"It is unfortunate that Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was judicially murdered in the same city of Rawalpindi, and a petition is pending in Supreme Court regarding this murder," he continued.
"If no one is ready to apologize for this judicial murder, do you think the common people can have any hope of getting justice," he asked.
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He added that his father was sick in the jail but he is the brave President and is ready to suffer for the people of this country and democracy in the country.
Speaking about the conditions inside the prison, he said the former president was being denied the required medical facilities by the authorities as "to pressurise him but he refuses to bow down before such tactics".
Lashing out at the "selected" government, he said the PTI leadership wants to appease those who brought them to power and is apathetic towards the plight of the people of Pakistan who are being crushed by inflation and unemployment.
"Selected governments do not come to power on the basis of votes but they are imposed on the people so they have no feeling for the masses," he added.
Whenever the PPP comes to power, it gives relief to the common people and not to the affluent class," he said citing interventions like the Benazir Income Support Program, increase in salaries of up to 150 per cent and doubling pension.
"On the other hand, every promise made by the puppet government has remained unfulfilled and the people are frustrated. We have to send this puppet government packing, and it will happen very soon," he predicted.
Responding to a question about divisions within the opposition ranks, he said the PPP has been in contact with all opposition parties including the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz.
"چیئرمین پاکستان پیپلز پارٹی بلاول بھٹوزرداری کا موجودہ حکومت کو واضح پیغام— PPP (@MediaCellPPP) September 30, 2019
اگر وزیر اعلی سندھ سید مراد علی شاہ کو کسی بھی طرح نشانہ بنانے کی کوشش کی گئی تو پاکستان پیپلز پارٹی اسکا بھرپور جواب دے گی۔"@BBhuttoZardari
(With additional input from our correspondent in Islamabad)