Bilawal urges Speaker to issue production orders for Wazir

Islamabad: Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) chief Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has called for a production order to be issued for member National Assembly Ali Wazir.

It is outrageous that a sitting MNA was arrested and the speaker not informed, he said during a press conference shortly after his appearance before the National Accojntability Bureau (NAB) on Wednesday.

Rule of law is not being followed and we don’t know why, he added. Wazir was arrested after he and a group of other people attacked an army check post in North Waziristan.

MNA Mohsin Dawar said he and Wazir along with other supporters were going to participate in a protest against an operation in Khar Kamar area when they were stopped at the check post.

Whatever the reasons for his arrest, rule of law must be followed, urged Bilawal. He said a production order should be issued for Wazir so he can attend Friday’s session and present his version of events. He said the National Assembly speaker has given the assembly an unprecedented two-day break in the middle of the week so he has not been able to voice his concerns on the floor of the House. I am ready to submit a documentary [protest], he said.

Bilawal, who is also chair of the National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Human Rights, said he has been getting secondary source information on the incident in Waziristan and called for the National Assembly to be told what is happening.

Because of censorship, confusion is being spread through the media, he said. He called for a parliamentary or judicial commission to investigate the matter. “In the short-term, an elected MNA is missing. Various rumors are floating about but he is missing,” he underscored. Rule of law has to be followed, he said.

Bilawal also condemned the arrest of two female MNAs from his party — Mussarat Rafique Mahesar and Dr Shazia Sobia Aslam Soomro. They were arrested during the crackdown against PPP workers and leaders outside the NAB office during his summons earlier in the day. He demanded that their production orders be issued and wanted to know whether the speaker was informed of their arrests.

When an MNA is arrested, the rule is that the speaker of the National Assembly has to be informed.

It is every Pakistani’s right, he said. They have the right to participate in democracy, right to freedom of speech and right to assembly, said the PPP chief. Emergency measures were not imposed during my NAB appearance, nor was Section 144 imposed, he said. He said that the workers and leaders ‘accompanied’ him during his appearance, and that there is no law against that.

“But PPP workers and elected members of both houses were attacked by the government of Mr Imran Khan,” Bilawal said. Force was used against peaceful citizens, I won’t call them protesters because they weren’t, he said.

You attacked before a protest even broke out, used water canons, tear gas and baton charged them, he said, pointing out that this was nothing new for the PPP. The young PPP head said this was Interior Minister Ijaz Shah showing his old ways. Former prime minister Benazir Bhutto had named Shah as one of the five people who should be investigated if she were to be assassinated.

He accused the prime minister of trying to encroach on all of the country’s institutions and impose a one-party rule. He said the government was trying to squash all forms of dissent, be it from small bloggers, journalists, civil society members or politicians.

Bilawal said he has asked for footage of the police action against PPP workers and will explore and are ready to use all legal options available to them.

Discussing his appearance before a NAB team in the fake accounts case, he said the PPP has always believed NAB is an institution made on a black law. This institution was made for political engineering, he said.

Bilawal said in his case, rule of law and standard precedents were not being followed and his right to fair trial under Article 10 of the Constitution is being undermined.

The company I was asked about is one in which I was made a shareholder when I was a child, he said. He explained that when his father, former president Asif Ali Zardari became president, he had to distance himself from his offices of profit. That was when he was made head of the company. But I had no involvement in the business, he asserted.

During the 30-minute interview I answered what I could, he said, adding that he will be submitting the questionnaire NAB gave him very soon.

He reminded everyone that former chief justice Saqib Nisar had ordered that NAB re-investigate its claims against Bilawal in this case. Quoting the written order in the case, he said “The counsel conceded that the material relating to Murad Ali Shah and Bilawal Bhutto Zardari needs to be reexamined to arrive at the correct conclusion”. But Bilawal believes nothing is being done to reexamine the material.

When it comes to implementing orders against us, NAB follows through but it is not revisiting the material after maliciously maligning me, he said.