Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari on Friday expressed his concerns over a “conspiracy being hatched against the country’s parliamentary system” and vowed to protect the 18 Constitutional Amendment, which was promulgated during his party’s last tenure.
“Throw my whole family in prison, but the PPP will not compromise on the 18th amendment,” he said at a news conference in Peshawar.
“We will also not change our stance on freedom of speech,” he added.
The PPP chairman, referring to military ruler Gen Ziaul Haq toppling former prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s government in a coup on July 5 1977, said it was the darkest day in the country’s history.
“A dictator had overthrown a democratically-elected government through heinous designs.”
Bilawal said his mother, former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, had struggled for 30 years to restore the 1973 Constitution to its original shape. “Today, the same constitution is being attacked from all corners,” he remarked. “Prime Minister Imran Khan and his ministers have issued statements against the 18th amendment.”
The PPP chairman announced that he would expose the “hypocrisy of this puppet government” through a series of rallies across the country. “We fought against the dictatorships of Zia and Musharraf with the help of press clubs and God forbid if we have to fight against any other dictator, then I know that the PPP and all press clubs of this country will stand together in this fight. We’ll have to struggle for democracy like we did during dictatorships as people’s basic rights are not protected under this government’s rule.”
Speaking on the arrest of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader Rana Sanullah, he said these were interior Minister Brig (retd) Ijaz Ahmed Shah’s “old tactics”.
Bilawal said for the first time in the country’s history, elected governments and civilian parliaments had completed their terms in the past 10 years. “It is believed that if the democratic transition is completed for a third time, then anti-democratic forces and dictators will find it difficult to attack democracy and become illegitimate leaders of the country again.”
The PPP chairman maintained that despite serious concerns over the 2018 elections, his party’s timely action of convincing other political forces of the country to become part of parliament and the democratic process had avoided a constitutional crisis in the country.
“No matter how weak the current system may be, it is still a democratic system,” he said. “However, we have paid a high price for Imran Khan to become the ‘selected prime minister’. By doing so, we have set a wrong precedent. We have told the youth that might is right. We let extremism to flourish during the election campaign. We focused on personalities rather than policies, and individuals more than institutional building,” he added.
“However, whatever expectations we had for this weak government, they haven’t been met. Whatever is happening in the country is not democratic progress, but a reversal of democracy. We are moving backwards. People don’t have the same rights that they enjoyed during the PPP’s rule.”
Bilawal said the media did not have the same freedom and parliament lacked the same strength now. “Today, democracy is not strong enough, and we have compromised on our basic human rights.”
The PPP chairman said the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government was running its affairs as if it was still an opposition party rather than working for the welfare of people.
“If both the government and the opposition play the role of the opposition, who will rule the country?”