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PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari on Sunday launched a scathing attack on the PTI-led government, while ministers responded to him in an equally strong manner.
Bilawal claimed Prime Minister Imran Khan had become an advocate for convicted Indian spy Kulbhushan Jadhav instead of representing the people of Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK).
“He [PM Imran] is trying to give an NRO [safe exit] to Jadhav. He issued an ordinance for him [Jadhav] in the darkness of the night,” the scion of the Bhutto dynasty said while addressing a rally in Hajira in Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK), where he is campaigning for his party for the region’s upcoming polls.
He added that when Jadhav turned down the NRO, the prime minister was forced to bring the issue in parliament.
“But the PPP will not become a partner in your crime.”
The PPP chairman said the people of IIOJK were facing the tyranny of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and fighting the ideology of Hindutva, whereas the people of AJK were facing the “economic tyranny” of the PTI government.
He maintained that people were putting up with poverty, inflation and unemployment because of the PTI government.
“We have to send a message to Bani Gala and Islamabad that the people of Kashmir will make their own decisions and won’t take dictation from the puppet prime minister.”
Bilawal claimed that his party had initiated a parliamentary system in AJK so that its people could decide for themselves through their elected representatives.
He recalled that his grandfather Zulfikar Ali Bhutto had turned Pakistan into a nuclear power and his mother Benazir Bhutto had equipped the country with missile technology.
“Now Imran Khan is saying that he doesn’t’ need them [nuclear weapons],” he said, referring to the premier’s recent interview wherein he had said that once the Kashmir issue was resolved, there would be no longer be any need for nuclear deterrence.
“Imran Khan is after our nuclear capability. This puppet has become a security risk,” The PPP chairman maintained, pointing out that the premier had declared his grandfather and mother a “security risk”.
The PPP chairman said on July 25 -- election day-- the people of AJK would send a message to the entire world that they had rejected the “puppet”.
He added the poor people of Pakistan were suffering because of the economic policies of the Imran Khan-led government.
“During the PPP’s government, there was a recession in the entire world but he did not ignore the poor, and introduced Benazir Income Support Programme. We increased salaries and pensions, particularly of our brave soldiers, who are putting their lives to protect the country.”
Speaking on the recently announced federal budget, Bilawal maintained that it was against the people of AJK because the government wanted to impose taxes on their energy projects.
“Only the government of Kashmir can impose taxes and no one else. If we have to save people from the tsunami of Imran Khan’s inflation, then you must elect PPP candidates.”
In response, Federal Information and Broadcasting Minister Fawad Chaudhry said the PPP chairman was not even aware of his party’s position in Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) as it had fielded only “eight” candidates in the upcoming elections for the region’s legislative assembly.
“Bilawal’s speech has clearly revealed that he does not know about his party’s position in AJK,” the minister wrote in a tweet.
He recalled that Bilawal and PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz had vehemently run their respective parties’ election campaigns in the last elections of Gilgit-Baltistan.
“However, it was later revealed that not even one-third of the total candidates were contesting the elections on the tickets of both the PPP and the PML-N at that time.”
Separately in statement, Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting Farrukh Habib said the PTI would emerge victorious in the upcoming AJK elections.
“The PTI would emerge as the single largest party in the AJK elections due to its better position in the area in comparison with other political parties.”
The minister said it was only the PTI which was deemed “a real democratic and pro-people party” across the country including AJK and Gilgit-Baltistan.
“The people of AJK are aware that Prime Minister Imran Khan is their ‘true ambassador’ and ‘saviour’,” he maintained. “The Kashmir issue received international recognition because of PM Imran’s extensive efforts.”
Farrukh said history had shown that the PTI had secured “record” votes wherever leaders of both the PPP and the PML-N had launched election campaigns.
Reacting to the statement of PPP chairman, he said the people of AJK would reject Bilawal.
He recalled the defeat faced by the PPP in the recent elections held in Gilgit-Baltistan. “It is an open secret that security deposits of many of its [PPP] candidates were forfeited for receiving few votes.”
He added that the PPP would face a similar defeat in the upcoming AJK elections.
The minister said the PPP leader only had expertise in corruption and “undue criticism” of the PTI government.
“Bilawal has only inherited corruption from his father Asif Ali Zardari.”