Bilawal blasts PTI for courting ‘interference’

Says the former ruling party is inviting the very quarters it cautioned against

Our Correspondent May 15, 2024
PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari speaking in the National Assembly. PHOTO: PPP/File



PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari launched a scathing critique against the PTI on Wednesday, accusing the party of hypocrisy for seeking engagement with the very entities its leaders once cautioned against interfering in constitutional matters.

Addressing the National Assembly amidst jeers from PTI lawmakers, Bilawal questioned the former ruling party’s contradictory approach of cozying up to the military establishment while sidelining political dialogue. “They preach constitutional supremacy but shy away from political discourse,” he asserted.

He criticized the PTI for allegedly seeking favor with the same forces it once warned against meddling in politics, accusing them of subservience. “They’re courting the very powers they cautioned against,” he remarked pointedly.

Bilawal’s stern condemnation comes in the backdrop of Imran Khan’s previous insistence on tying any potential dialogue to the return of his party’s purportedly “stolen mandate” and the release of imprisoned party members.

Despite Imran Khan's recent declarations of refusing to leave the country through a deal, he subsequently hinted at a willingness to engage in reconciliation talks with the ruling coalition, albeit with conditions attached.

In April, the former prime minister admitted that some PTI members maintained contact with the establishment.

However, later party leader Gohar Khan denied holding clandestine talks.In his address to the lower house of Parliament, Bilawal highlighted the stark contrast between talk and walk in PTI’s politics. "They speak of upholding the Constitution, the rule of law, and haqeeqi azaadi," he remarked. "Yet, they are showing a preference for dialogue only with our armed forces."Bilawal called on the ruling PTI to step up to the plate in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, where it holds the power.

He slammed the party for being all talk and no action, only crying about its own matters instead of tending to the province's needs, which set off a storm of protest among opposition members.He said, "Sindh extends an open invitation to the PTI and their administration to visit our hospitals. We're eager to demonstrate how we provide free, top-notch healthcare to the underprivileged."

"We're also prepared to collaborate with your government to ensure that Peshawar enjoys the same level of quality care as offered by NICVD," he continued.The PPP leader expressed disappointment at the opposition's lackadaisical approach, prompting dissent from the other side of the aisle.

During the address, he stressed the importance of the federal government and the opposition pulling together to tackle public issues collectively.He urged the opposition to chip in on the forthcoming budget, especially given Pakistan's present financial woes.

He said that as it was drawing salaries, the opposition should play its part in parliament's functions.

Read Bilawal calls for political dialogue amid economic woes

Apology for ‘May 9 terrorism’

Bilawal also warned the PTI about facing the music if it did not apologise for the May 9 riots."No one should get away with terrorism," Bilawal said and stressed that, "The opposition's antics on May 9 amounted to terrorism, disrespecting the memorials of our martyrs who sacrificed their lives for the country.

"It's worth noting that the imprisoned PTI founder Khan, chatting informally with journalists in Rawalpindi’s Adiala Jail on May 8, rejected the military's call for an apology regarding the May 9 riots, just a day before the anniversary of the tumultuous day.

He also made it clear that his party had no part in the violent protests that erupted nationwide following his arrest last year.

Wheat crisis

Bilawal also highlighted the ongoing farmer protests in Punjab, Sindh, and Balochistan, stressing that the PPP, PML-N, and PTI were all in agreement about agriculture being the cornerstone of the economy.

“This is an issue where all parties should be singing from the same hymn sheet. This House demands answers for the financial devastation inflicted upon farmers, both past and ongoing,” Bilawal said, criticising the caretaker government's wheat import decision.

He emphasized that this decision had severely harmed farmers, the agriculture sector, the public, and the country's economy.Bilawal urged an end to the endless formation of committees, insisting on immediate action to address farmers' grievances.

“To make matters worse... there was even a ban on wheat exports, leaving farmers in a quandary,” he remarked, urging Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif to identify the individuals and bureaucrats responsible and take swift action against them.

Bilawal denounced the impact of decisions made by "undemocratic, unelected, incompetent" individuals on the nation.The PPP chairman demanded the immediate lifting of the wheat export ban to provide urgent relief to farmers.

Presidential address

The PPP chairman also defended the presidential address to both houses of Parliament on April 18, congratulating the assembly as it was the 7th address by a civilian president.He praised President Asif Ali Zardari for centring the speech on national issues, steering clear of personal or political agendas.

He stressed that, as the federation's representative, the president gave precedence to public issues, stressing unity, reconciliation, and shared advancement.

He noted that the president understood that dialogue among political factions is key to resolving Pakistan's challenges.The former foreign minister also noted that the president delivered a brief speech covering both national and international policy issues, while the opposition leader’s opening speech was lengthy.

He suggested that it would have been more constructive if the opposition leader had used the opportunity to recommend alternatives to government policies and offer counter policies for consideration.He remarked that the president effectively articulated Pakistan’s policy on Kashmir and Palestine, providing a clear narrative.

The Bhutto scion criticised the opposition’s behaviour, expressing dismay over their protests during the speech, which he believed sent the wrong message to the public and those witnessing the session.

He also appreciated President Asif Ali Zardari and the government for promptly taking notice of and resolving the genuine issues faced by the people of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) by announcing a comprehensive package.


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