Political engineering at work, says Bilawal

there is no one law for every Pakistani; Durrani arrested without evidence; NAB’s is  a "black law"; Appointing ISI on Benami accounts JIT was undemocratic precedent; alleges three PTI ministers have links to banned outfits.

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Tariq Virk

Karachi

The Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari on Wednesday said the move by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to arrest the speaker of the Sindh Assembly on “trumped-up charges” was highly condemnable.

He was addressing a press conference at the Sindh Assembly in Karachi.

The PPP chairman said it was known that NAB’s allegation of assets beyond means can be placed on anyone and added that “there is no one law for every Pakistani”.

He said the allegation could be levelled in a manner similar to when a police officer plants drugs or alcohol on an innocent person and jails them.

Bilawal said in the case of Durrani, he was taken into custody based on an allegation and there was no evidence of any corruption having been committed. He said if there had been evidence it would have been presented “but raiding his [Durrani’s] house after the arrest gives the message that there was no evidence”.

“You’re giving a message like you did before,” the PPP chairman said, without explaining.

“I am sad to say that the chairman NAB has till today not taken any action against this very serious accusation, on this violation of human rights, on this violence against women … no action was taken,” he claimed.

He demanded that the NAB chairman conduct an investigation and hold his officers accountable otherwise “we [ourselves] will have to take action”.

“Once again let me emphasise that the NAB should not be used for political engineering,” the PPP chairman said.

Bilawal, while responding to a question about banned organisations, alleged that there are at least three Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf ministers in the Cabinet, who have links to banned organisations.

“I will be forced to take their names if the government does not take action against them. At least three PTI ministers have a record and history when it comes to banned organisations.”

He alleged that one of the ministers publicly met with members of the banned organisations during the election campaign.

Bilawal stated that these ministers believe to this day that if one speaks against these organisations and terrorism, then they are giving a statement against the country.

He said that it is hard to believe that the National Action Plan is being implemented until these ministers, with such mentality, are present in the cabinet.

“These individuals must be immediately be removed from Imran khan’s cabinet. So, the opposition may believe that serious action is being considered against banned organisations,” he said.

 

He alleged that NAB was “founded” for the purpose of political engineering and termed the legislation which governs the bureau’s functioning as a “black law”.

Bilawal said this was why his mother, former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, had said in the Charter of Democracy (CoD) that NAB needed to be done away with.

The PPP chairman alleged that the ‘benami’ or fake bank accounts case was also a form of political engineering and questioned the rationale behind the Supreme Court taking suo motu notice of such a case during the elections last year.

“How can you say it is slack?” he asked, and said that if this case from 2016 was seen to be not progressing, “then what about the cases regards the murder of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, the murder of Benazir Bhutto as well as the Asghar Khan case?”

He said alleged that the slackness in the investigation was all of a sudden turned into a human rights case, in what he claimed was a response to a press conference he held in Ghotki during the elections.

He alleged that the taking of a suo motu notice in the case sent the message that it is “all being done for political engineering”.

He added that “balancing” was not a legal concept and without specifying who he believed guilty of indulging in the practice, he said, “You can’t say in an open court [that] I want to balance it [the investigation, so] I’ll make a joint investigation team (JIT).”

Bilawal said that to then make representatives of the ISI sit on this JIT was an “undemocratic precedent that not only politicises the ISI but also politicises and militarises the judiciary.”

Bilawal noted that as per Article 10-A of the Constitution, the Sindh chief minister and he had the right to a free and fair trial. However, he said this right was “undermined”.

However, he said, not even once was CM Shah or himself given the opportunity to present their case before any court and added that no court had given them notice.

“The rule of law cannot function like this,” he said, adding that even if a verdict was in favour of a witness or any accused it could not be given without telling them,

“The system cannot go on like this in this country, or in a democracy,” he said.

The PPP chairman noted that another “obnoxious unconstitutional effort” was to shift the fake accounts case to Rawalpindi.

He said that this was a violation of the concept of jurisdiction and legally there was a concept of jurisdiction according to which a trial will take place where a crime is done or where an accused is based.

“But I don’t know why there is such an interest [in making sure] that every time our trial should be done in Pindi,” he remarked.

He asked that if the case, the FIR, the bank accounts, companies and transactions, in this case, are in Sindh, why was the case to be trialled in Pindi?

The PPP chairman said that the entire country had witnessed that injustice had been done with him and the way he was “dragged” into the case for political engineering.

He noted that the whole country had seen how the Chief Justice of Pakistan had summoned an ISI representative in an open court and asked him on whose instructions Bilawal’s name had been included in the JIT.

“I still haven’t received the answer to this,” he remarked.

Bilawal claimed that in the same hearing, the chief justice had announced that he [Bilawal] was innocent and his name should be expunged from the JIT and exit control list (ECL).

He noted that after this written orders came, which he said may have been written by someone else, which did not include the remarks mentioned above.

He added that he was shocked that when they had reviewed the decision, a judge had suggested that this had not happened and he had misunderstood.

Bilawal said that the entire media had reported on this and until today no clarification or rebuttal has come from the court.

“For me, this is very absurd. I think it can only be a mistake, an innocent mistake,” he said.

He asked the Supreme Court to look at their records again as this gave a “very bad message to Pakistan” and added, “This will undermine the credibility the institution of the judiciary.”

The PPP chairman said that he wanted a democratic Pakistan but this could not happen until courts are strong and independent and make decisions on their own.

“Justice should be done and should also be seen to be done,” he said.

Bilawal noted that Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khosa had recently said that the SC’s journey of truth had begun and added that he was hopeful that the journey would begin with this fact.

“I want to reiterate that we want to see a strong judicial system in Pakistan,” he said.