–PPP chief says presence of three ministers who support banned outfits raises questions on PTI’s ability to curb militancy
— Says govt targetting ‘critics’ as members of proscribed outfits run amok
–PTI minister wants proof from Bilawal for his ‘unreasonable act’
KARACHI: Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari on Thursday lambasted the government for its proximity towards banned outfits in the country as he accused three federal ministers of having “close ties” with these organisations.
The PPP chief made this statement in the wake of a government crackdown on militant outfits. He said he wouldn’t trust the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government’s efforts to curb militancy unless these ministers resign.
“Everyone knows that three ministers in the cabinet have a long history with banned outfits. Until you remove them, we will keep on doubting you,” he said. “We doubt your intentions because you were allied with proscribed organisations in the elections,” said Bilawal, referring to the electoral alliance of PTI with some of the banned outfits.
“One minister’s video went viral on social media. He can be seen assuring them [leaders of a proscribed party] that ‘we will not take action against you until our government is in place. Folks with this mentality should not be in the ‘Naya Pakistan’ cabinet.”
The viral video Bilawal is referring is most likely the one which features Minister of State for Interior Shehryar Khan Afridi giving assurances to the leaders of the MML – the political façade of the Hafiz Saeed-led Jamaatud Dawa (JuD).
“The other minister made inductions into the PTI from UN-banned organisations like HuM (Harkatul Mujahideen al-Islami) during the elections. He then said on the floor of the House that ‘If you are speaking against banned outfits and the National Action Plan then that is against the country’s interest.”
“The third one not only has a long history of being associated with banned outfits, but he has also helped run militant outfits and training camps,” the PPP leader alleged.
“What message are we sending to the world, that banned organisations have immunity? How is it that you can renounce the punishment for late Benazir Bhutto and Asif Ali Zardari over a phone call? But you cannot take action against terrorists who kill children in my country and who spread terror in other nations.” Bilawal said, during a fiery press conference targeting the prime minister.
“Just look at the benami accounts case. It is nothing but political engineering,” he said. “What was the purpose of taking a suo motu notice of the case during elections?”
He remarked that an FIR was registered in the case and the banking court was hearing it. “How can you say that the case was slacking?”
Earlier in the day, State Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Mohammad Khan had urged “Bilawal to provide proof, if he has any, against the ministers”. Leveling allegations without proof is an unreasonable act,” said Ali Mohammad Khan. “Evidence should be presented so that the Prime Minister can take action and sack the said ministers if the allegations are proven.”
It is worth mentioning that the current state policy, according to the National Action Plan (NAP) and National Internal Security Policy (NISP), is to ‘mainstream’ militant groups by creating economic, social and political incentives to encourage them to give up violence and integrate them in the nation. This policy was unequivocally opposed by Bilawal in the National Assembly last week.
“What message are we sending to the world? That banned organisations have immunity? How is it that you can pronounce the punishment for late Benazir Bhutto and Asif Ali Zardari over a phone call? But you cannot take action against terrorists who kill children in my country and who spread terror in other nations.” Bilawal said, directly addressing Prime Minister Imran.
This is not the first time the PPP chairman has put forth these allegations.
Bilawal has previously accused the Pakistan Tehreek-Insaf (PTI) government of victimising opposition parties but not taking action against banned organisations, which was against the spirit of NAP. He then posted a critical tweet, calling the PM a “coward” for not taking appropriate action.
The criticism came as the state speeds up its cases against the PPP’s senior leadership for its alleged involvement in a multi-billion rupee fake bank accounts scandal. The fake accounts were used to launder money for senior PPP leaders, including Bilawal’s father Asif Ali Zardari and aunt Faryal Talpur, the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) believes.
Also, the debate on action against proscribed organisations comes roughly a week after the government took 44 under-observation members of proscribed organisations, including Mufti Abdul Raoof and Hammad Azhar (no relation to the Minister of State for Revenue) — the brother and son of Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) leader Masood Azhar, respectively — in “preventive detention” for investigation. The crackdown has acquired a renewed urgency as a Financial Action Task Force review looms of measures Pakistan is taking to counter money laundering and terror financing.