Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said on Wednesday that the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government’s three special assistants were given ‘special immunity’ from the process of accountability.
“If you are a special assistant, you get a super immunity which isn’t even available to a former president, a former prime minister, a Supreme Court judge or even to [incumbent Prime Minister] Imran Khan himself,” he told a press conference in Mirpurkhas. Bilawal is on a three-day visit to the rain-affected Mirpurkhas, Umerkot and Sanghar districts of Sindh. His remarks came after the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) said that it was preparing another reference against PPP Co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari in Bagh-e-Ibn-e-Qasim case.
Bilawal’s oblique reference was made to prime minister’s special assistants, Shahzad Akbar (accountability and interior), Zulfi Bukhari (overseas Pakistanis) and Lt-Gen (retd) Asim Saleem Bajwa (information), who also heads the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) Authority.
“One of the special assistants comes on the TV daily and babbles about corruption but he can’t explain how he and his wife bought assets out of the country,” the PPP chairman said.
He asked Akbar to answer that did he get any illegal benefit from the people against whom he pretends to be spearheading the corruption cases. “Another special assistant is involved in Panama [papers] which if you remember happened to be a big issue for PM Khan.”
The PPP’s chairman also referred to Lt-Gen (retd) Bajwa, saying that the prime minister was not ready to accept his resignation. “That special assistant acted responsibly and decided to resign but Imran, who used to say that if you face corruption charges you should resign from your position and face the charges, didn’t accept his resignation.”
However, he deplored that his father, despite being a former president of Pakistan, was forced to answer all the fake allegations. He asserted that in stark contrast to Imran’s vision of one Pakistan, the new Pakistan was being governed by two discriminatory laws.
He questioned why no joint investigation team was being formed to probe into the allegations against the special assistants, and why the NAB was not arresting them prior to launching a full-fledged inquiry as it did in the case of the PPP’s leader Syed Khursheed Shah.
“I feel sad to say this that when the people of Sindh are facing calamitous conditions, president Zardari is being dragged in the accountability courts in Islamabad,” Bilawal said, adding that the Toshakhana reference against Zardari did not merit NAB’s inquiry.
Commenting on the planned joint session of parliament over the Financial Action Task Force (FATF)-related bills, he said the joint opposition would reiterate its serious objections to certain provisions of the bills.
The opposition-dominated Senate had already rejected the Anti-Monday Laundering (Second Amendment) Bill and the Islamabad Capital Territory Waqf Properties Bill on August 25.
The PPP chief announced that his party would host an all parties conference (APC) this month, adding that if the PTI government felt no threat from the APC, it should not try to sabotage it. “If nothing is going to come out from the APC then why is the government worried? Why suddenly the NAB court hearings start against us? This is because of their fear.”
The PPP chairman advised the federal government against forsaking rural Sindh, in the wake of floods after the month-long monsoon rains. He underlined that like the financial indispensability of Karachi, the rural agriculture was also the backbone of the economy.
He asked the PTI government to declare an agriculture emergency as stated in the party’s manifesto. “After the locust attacks and the rain-induced flood, it is the high time to declare agricultural emergency.”
He also asked the prime minister to also visit the flood-hit areas of Sindh. He claimed that the Sindh government was utilising its own resources to help the flood-affected people. “The people sitting in Islamabad, who cannot find Mirpurkhas even on the map don’t understand the impact of the historic rains.”
Bilawal lamented that the national media was not giving due coverage to rural Sindh. The Left Bank Outfall Drain (LBOD), which was flowing far above its capacity and caused flooding in several areas, required Rs45 billion for rehabilitation, the PPP chairman told the media.
However, he added, the provincial government, at present, was able to allocate only Rs5 billion with the removal of blockages being the top priority. He asked the Centre to extend help in the project, which was executed by the federal government.
Responding to a question, Bilawal clarified that the provincial government was contributing Rs800 billion and the federal government Rs300 billion to the Karachi development package.
According to him, the province would fund the package from its budget, foreign loans and through the public-private partnership. He added the Centre would also be contributing one-third of Rs300 from its budget, while the remaining funds would come from the public-private partnership.