Tuesday, May 16, 2023
ISLAMABAD: Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari has ruled out the possibility of any dialogue with Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), as ordered by the Supreme Court, unless the party offers an apology for vandalising and torching Jinnah House in Lahore.
The apex court has urged the resumption of the government-PTI talks on the matter of elections while ordering the two sides to play their constructive role for restoring peace in the country through dialogue.
On Monday, Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Umar Ata Bandial asked the government and PTI to resume election dialogue, while presiding over the hearing of Election Commission of Pakistan’s (ECP) plea to revisit SC's April 4 order to hold elections in Punjab on May 14.
However, Bilawal, who is a key member of the ruling alliance being the chairman of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), said that there will be no dialogue until PTI leaders apologise for the May 9 attacks.
While addressing the joint session of parliament on Monday, the FM said that the unprecedented events of May 9 — triggered by the dramatic arrest of PTI chief Imran Khan — including the attack on the General Headquarters and Jinnah House were deplorable.
“This is the PTI’s last opportunity to decide whether it wishes to be a political party or not,” Bilawal said.
It may be noted that Bilawal was the one to oppose banning PTI despite its attacking state facilities, as he said last week that he would be the "last person" to endorse such a move.
The foreign minister during his address in the Parliament urged the institutions to work within their constitutional ambit so that the government could concentrate on resolving the issues of the poor people.
“In 1986, over three million people gave a warm welcome to former prime minister Benazir Bhutto despite the fact that the then president, General Ziaul Haq was in power. Benazir Bhutto did not use the occasion to incite violence against Zia. The PPP has faced various incidents over the years but refrained from resorting to violence.”
Bilawal said the PPP did not oppose the elections, as they believed that Khan could be challenged through a fair election, and that the ruling coalition would contest and defeat him. He said the incumbent coalition government candidates had already defeated the PTI chief and its candidates in several by-elections.
He went on to say that the history would always remember that when Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was martyred, a "PPP jiyala" had set himself on fire in protest but did not harm the state’s property.
“The slogans raised on that day were met with President Zardari’s pledge of ‘Pakistan Khappay’. I raised the slogan of ‘democracy is the best revenge’ after burying my mother. We could have direct the people to Musharraf, the killer of the people’s leader. Had Asif Ali Zardari not raised the slogan for unity, had we sought vengeance, could Pakistan survive? Would we be sitting in this Assembly today?”
“Today, Imran Khan is criticising the same National Accountability Bureau (NAB) he was once so fond of. Had someone from our side been involved in such a case, we would have been behind the bars without a second thought," he added.
He said that "history will remember that our chief justice reacted by saying ‘good to see you’instead of condemning the attackers of the Jinnah House and GHQ and taking a suo motu action".
Speaking in the House, Defence Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif demanded the constitution of a parliamentary committee to investigate the incidents of undue support to Khan by what he said a group of the apex judiciary and send a reference to the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) under Article 209 of the Constitution.
“It is high time that the Parliament asserted its supremacy and play constitutional role when a group (Jatha) in the Supreme Court is on the back of an accused of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) and a political group,” he said.
He regretted that the judiciary also changed the structure of the Constitution by rewriting 63-A to benefit a specific person while three-time elected Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was disqualified in 2017 only for receiving salary from his son.