Bilawal seeks probe into publication of cipher

Our Correspondent
Tuesday, Mar 05, 2024

ISLAMABAD: Amid the continues pandemonium from the opposition benches in the National Assembly, Pakistan People’s Party Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari Monday said publication of a document like cipher in an international publication is tantamount to comprising the national security of Pakistan, adding that it was a condemnable act, should be pursued in accordance with the law, and those violating the Constitution should be punished.

Addressing the National Assembly, Bilawal further said that he condemns the comparison made with Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto over the cipher issue. During the process of his judicial murder within the court, Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto had said that he would take the secrets of the country to his grave but never compromise on the national security of Pakistan, Bilawal said, adding: “Having served as the foreign minister, I am privy to the intricacies involved and one copy of the cipher is with the Foreign Office, while others are sent to different officials.”

He said every copy is accounted for, except for the one that was with the Prime Minister House. “Had Imran Khan himself not accepted it on television that he lost his copy, one would have considered the opposition’s excuse that the responsibility lies solely with the bureaucrats. Imran himself admitted that he lost a confidential, national security document of the Government of Pakistan, which is encrypted. The enemy of Pakistan can crack the code of the country, and break into all the other ciphers,” he said.

The PPP chairman continued that as the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan was privy to this and the tapes that were leaked made it apparent to all that ‘politics was to be played’ over this matter.

He said the intelligence agencies of the US raided Donald Trump’s residence to retrieve confidential documents and filed a case against him. “We did not suggest the same,” he said.

He said the day after Imran’s arrest, that alleged cipher was printed in an international publication. “If you think that the people of Pakistan are a fool, then you are wrong,” Bilawal said, adding that “we all know that the alleged copy of the cipher was printed in an international publication for the sake of politics and to make the corruption cases controversial in this manner.”

He said when such a document is publicised in an international publication, it amounts to comprising the national security of Pakistan. “This is condemnable and should be pursued in accordance with the law. We should all ensure that we abide by the oath we have taken,” he said, adding that those violating the Constitution should be punished.

When Bilawal was talk about the cipher, the Sunni Ittehad Council (SIC) members started protesting and shouting and gathered in front of dais.

The PPP chairman endorsed the Chief Minister Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Ali Amin Gandapur’s demand of an inquiry into the events of May 9 saying that we endorse this demand over the condition that we would be assured by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) that the decision made by the judicial commission is acceptable to all.

“We endorse this demand over the condition that we would be assured by the PTI that the decision made by the judicial commission is acceptable to all as it cannot be that the country forgets that its institutions and memorials of martyrs were attacked,” he said.

Bilawal not only endorsed the demand of the judicial commission on May 9 incidents but also endorsed the Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s offer for national reconciliation and charter of economy.

He said the Constitution was violated when the House was dissolved during the no-confidence motion. Bilawal said that if he is schooled over the Constitution and the democracy by them, all he would say is: “Who the hell are you to talk to me? I am the grandson of the man who accepted being sent to the gallows, but did not compromise on his principles. Those who are protesting today have only recently started talking about the democracy and the Constitution. They are in no position to give us a lecture on these matters.”

He said they believe that they can make false accusations and not receive a response. “We will not only respond, but expose their lies. When they have a valid complaint, they would see that we would be the first ones to support them,” he said.

However, he continued, if they abrogate the Constitution and attempt to subvert democracy, we would be the first to stand in their way. “We are not to be disappointed by such antics, but the people of Pakistan are not pleased by them.”

The PPP chairman said that if Shahbaz’s government takes a step against the opposition that is against the Constitution or democracy, and we would defend it.

However, he said, if the opposition attempts to take undemocratic and unconstitutional steps, we would become an obstacle for them. “No matter how many resolutions are passed to stop interference in the democratic system, we cannot attain this motive until politicians do not respect one another and operate within their constitutional domain,” he said.

He said we should not expect the judiciary and other institutions to work within their constitutional boundaries if we do not respect them ourselves.

He said the politics of the country would not be able to progress until we address this issue and due to this reason, the PPP appeals to the prime minister to approach Chief Justice of Pakistan Qazi Faez Isa to head the judicial commission on May 9 so that the perpetrators are punished.

He said that there was a proverb in the English language: “History repeats itself, first as a tragedy and then as a farce. We have reached the farcical stage in Pakistan’s long and arduous democratic journey.”

Bilawal said that he belonged to the third generation of elected representatives from his family and the foundation stone of the building of the National Assembly was laid by Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. “The hall of the National Assembly belongs to all, and it is the mother of all institutions and the members of the House should come to the realisation that strengthening this institution amounts to strengthening the people, and weakening it weakens not only the members, but the federation and the entire democratic system,” he said.

He said that as a representative of the youth of the country he appeals to his elders, those who have become members numerous times before, to take decisions that allow for the coming generations to have bright futures. “We should take decisions that ease the path towards Parliament for the youngsters who wish to represent their people in this House as members and politicians. We should be lauded by the coming generations of members for our commitment, not be bashed by them for weakening our own institutions,” he said.

Bilawal said that the manner in which the members of the House were conducting themselves under the garb of protest during the speeches of the prime minister and the Opposition Leader was disappointing. “The people of Pakistan would be disappointed after witnessing this as they are looking at us with hope-filled eyes. Pakistan has reached at an alarming stage,” he said, adding, the people of Pakistan have voted in the elections to be rid of the pain they face due to the plethora of economic crises we face.

He said the prime minister talked about his plan in his speech, while the opposition leader talked about his issues; however, the point was not conveyed to the people of Pakistan as the backbenchers from both the sides were protesting.

He said the opposition leader has raised the objection that his speech was not aired on the state-run TV but this trend, that was initiated by Imran Khan should no longer continue, and the speeches of the members should be aired live.

Bilawal said that the PPP did not reach the assembly due to forms 45 and 47, but because of the blood and sweat of the workers of the party. Shaheed Abdul Wahid Awan, Shaheed Sabir Magsi and Shaheed Abdul Rehman sacrificed their lives for us to reach this House. “Shaheed Abdul Rehman, who belonged to Karachi was a twelve-year-old child, who was martyred by a shot to the head, because the enemies of the PPP wanted to intimidate its voters while in Moro, a worker by the name of Bilal Zardari was martyred during the elections. Mansoor Ali was martyred in Naushahro Feroze. Raza Khoso was martyred in Mirpurkhas,” he said.

In Balochistan, he said the PPP’s candidates were subjected to violence through grenade attacks as Zahoor Buledi from Turbat faced two grenade attacks during the election, Mir Asghar Rind faced a similar attack in Mand and Ali Madad Jattak’s office was attacked by a bomb blast in Quetta, injuring two. “Our candidates in Mastung, Khuzdar and Kachhi were also subjected to attacks,” he said.

He said Shaheed Abdul Malik from Sanghar too sacrificed his life. “Elections in Pakistan lead to our workers being martyred, and this is strongly condemned. In my first address in the previous assembly as well, I had condemned the fatal attacks on Haroon Bilour and Siraj Raisani, and am proud to see the latter’s son in the National Assembly as the youngest representative,” he said, adding that one life is too many lives.

The PPP chairman proposed the formation of a system that allows for the elections to be conducted without workers sacrificing their lives just for an election. “As a member of the House, I would like for us to achieve feats that can be conveyed to the families of the martyrs to let them know that the sacrifices of their loved ones are not in vain.”

Bilawal extended felicitations to PM Shehbaz Sharif, the opposition leader, KP Chief Minister Ali Amin Gandapur, Punjab CM Maryam Nawaz, Sindh CM Murad Ali Shah and Balochistan CM Sarfaraz Bugti.

He said that the people were looking towards them, and they all have to play their role in saving the country, its democracy, economy and federation. “If our counterparts had listened to the speech of the prime minister on Sunday, they would get to know that we are making efforts to address the crises,” he said.

He said the PM offered to work on a ‘Charter of National Reconciliation’ which the PPP too had advised. “We do not only endorse this, but also appeal to our fellows in the opposition to participate in this process. We can solve most of the country’s issues if we make a system in which everyone agrees to the rules of the game and the code of conduct,” he said.

A ‘Charter of Economy’ was also mentioned and it is incredibly vital as no single party has the mandate to make decisions on its own, the people of Pakistan have made a decision that compels the parties to collaborate, he said.

Addressing the opposition, Bilawal said that it cannot attain its goal without the PPP’s votes even if it is able to bag the reserved seats.

He said the people of Pakistan are sending us the message that they are done with our squabbles. “Hence, be it the ‘Charter of National Reconciliation’ or the ‘Charter of Economy’, we have to engage with one another,” he said.

He said if the opposition truly represents the people, then it should realise that they are fed up with the crippling inflation and economic difficulties. “They have not voted for their representatives to only abuse each other and make needless hue and cry. The people of Pakistan have voted solely for us to save them from the economic quandary.”

He said that approximately five years ago, 10kg of wheat flour would cost less than Rs400, today it costs more than Rs1,400, similarly, prices of milk, edible oil and lentils have all increased by 113 percent, 217 percent and 353 percent respectively. “These numbers are not updated, and may have increased,” he said.

About nine years ago, he said, a poor family with a joint income of Rs35,000 could buy sufficient amounts of flour, edible oil and other food items to provide nutritious food to their family, afford a two-room house, put their children through school, and have enough savings for either a medical emergency or recreation.

Keeping in mind the previous year, he said, the same family would need a joint income of Rs70,000 to fulfil these needs. “The costs are increasing with no increase in income. We have reached this extreme financial crisis, part of which is owed to external factors such as the current international scenario but also the decisions we have taken,” he said.

The PPP chairman said if all the political stakeholders of the House sit together, then whatever economic policy is brought forth by the prime minister would be improved through the input given by them.

He said if the opposition refuses to engage and avail the opportunity given to it to let its opinion be counted, then it cannot criticise the policy curated later. “We are all inviting the opposition to help the people emerge from this economic plight. My advice to our colleagues would be to support us, at least where the economy is concerned.”

Bilawal said that the PPP’s only narrative has been to contest the elections based on its manifesto. “Omar Ayub may not be as well-versed with his manifesto as I am with mine,” he added.

He said that it pleases him greatly to see that most political parties have agreed to 80 percent of the points raised in the PPP’s manifesto.

He said representatives of Punjab, the federation, and the opposition are making speeches and policy statements that seem to be a good omen for the points raised by the PPP’s document to be implemented.

Adding to the prime minister’s speech of Sunday, Bilawal said that fiscal space can be created to a great extent and it was said that the federal government runs on loans after the NFC awards given to the provinces. “This may be true, but not only because the provinces are getting their due share after the NFC awards, but because the governments of Nawaz Sharif and Imran Khan after 2013 did not take the necessary steps following the 18th Amendment,” he said.

He said they failed to devolve the ministries that had to be devolved by 2015. “Now, doubling is taking place and the bureaucrats sitting in the capital have been telling the governments that the federal government is left with nothing after giving to the provinces,” he said.

The PPP chairman said the truth was that 18 ministries had to be devolved in 2015 and the annual cost to run them is Rs308 billion. “Had they been devolved in 2015, then we could have addressed the PIA issue among others with the same amount,” he affrf.

He said that the PPP would not have a share in the ministries this time and even during the election campaign, upon raising these issues, we would be met with speculation as people would question our ability to take these steps due to a probable coalition government. “Now is the opportunity for Shehbaz Sharif to take this revolutionary step and initiate the process of the devolution of these ministries,” he said.

Bilawal said that he was greatly pleased by PM Shehbaz’s mention of giving subsidies directly to the farmers instead of fertiliser companies which was included in the 10-point agenda of the PPP.

He said the federal government gives subsidies to fertiliser and energy companies, the elite, and when tallied, this amount reaches the figure of Rs1,500 billion. “We cannot afford to be a social welfare state for the rich,” he said while addressing the Speaker.

He said the money saved through these measures would help create space for the relief demanded by the people of Pakistan.

He said that the provinces made provincial revenue boards when the sales tax on services was abolished. The collection of sales tax on services of all the provinces defeats that of the federal government. “We perform, and the FBR fails each time. The FBR has been collecting the sales tax on goods till now.”

The PPP chairman said that he had given the same proposal to Hammad Azhar, and is now conveying it to the current government, to give the provinces the responsibility to collect the sales tax on goods. “We should set a target for the collection of the tax, and if it is not met, then the provinces can account for the gap through their own budget,” he said.

“If the provinces exceed the set target, then the extra profit can be given to the provinces as a motivating factor. The provincial revenue boards will outperform that of the federation,” he said.

He said that the people of Pakistan hope for us to derive solutions to their problems. “It is imperative that we carry out judicial and electoral reforms. We have not been able to make judicial reforms since the Charter of Democracy, and we would like to invite our fellows from the opposition to sit with us over these two issues. If we address these two issues related to the judiciary and the elections, then no power in the world can weaken the democracy of Pakistan,” he said.

As far as the elections are concerned, he said, not many were aware of the extent to which the workers of the PPP suffered for the sake of democracy.

He said when the PPP would present its objections, it would be met with criticism. “We would be mocked for raising questions over the Form 45. We will not do the same. It is time that we address these issues. When I am elected for the third time, I would not want for the Assembly to witness the same hue and cry,” he said.

“For this, the PPP is present for both Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and Omar Ayub to once and for all address the irregularities in the elections.”

He concluded his speech by wishing PM Shehbaz Sharif good luck. During his speech Bilawal also refer to Imran Khan as ‘Qaidi Nimber 804’. As the SIC legislators protested on the remarks of the Bilawal, Speaker Ayaz Sadiq said he would expunge those remarks which were inappropriate.

Bilawal also asked the NA Speaker to expunge his words which he mentioned to the protestors, saying that he should not have said such things. On this, Speaker Ayaz Sadiq said that this was a commendable gesture of Bilawal.

The raid on the Quetta residence of Pashtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) chief and SIC Presidential Candidate Mahmood Khan Ackakzai also echoed in the National Assembly as Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf leader Omar Ayub said that the raid on Achakzai’s house Sunday night was fascism.

Bilawal said there was a reports of raid at Achakzai’s house which he condemned and appealed Balochistan Chief Minister Sarfraz Bugti to investigate the incident.

He said the PkMAP chairman was a presidential candidate too and the presidential election was being made controversial through the incident. The NA Speaker said he was unaware of the happening.

The PPP chief requested the Speaker to allow Achakzai to speak as he probably wanted to say something. Achakzai said told the House that his 200 relatives and friends had died in the fight inflicted upon his house for last 15 years.

He said the political parties would have to sit together to rescue the country out of the crisis. PTI senior leader Asad Qaiser, while addressing the House, said that Bilawal Bhutto spoke on cipher. “We have a clear stand on Cipher that a Judicial Commission should be formed. They used to call the chiper was fake but punishments were given on the basis of this cipher, and the PTI founder was punished and malicious cases were made against him.

He said that the way the dictation was given to our ambassador is a question mark on national honor. “Neither our leader bowed before them nor we, and there will be no compromise on the rule of law. None of us are afraid. Our homes have been raided. We were arrested in the middle of the night. Pressure was put on us to quit the PTI; even then I used to say that I would die but I would not leave the founder.”

Asad Qaiser said that they do not fear intimidation any more, adding that “we will unite everyone for civilian supremacy.”

He said those of Form-47 know that they are losers and our mandate was stolen in Karachi. “If this prime minister has any moral value or feeling any shame,” he said, adding that “we will run the movement with new courage so that there is no rigging in the future. We will continue our struggle by staying within the Constitution and the law.”

He said that there was no truth in the cases against Imran Khan. “They are all fabricated, false propaganda was made against the PTI founder.”

He demanded that the cases against Imran, his wife and others should be dropped and they should be released. “If we don’t get justice, no one will rule here,” he warned.

Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan Convener Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui said that a parliamentary committee should be formed to address the concerns of the opposition. “Our identity is not Form 47 but 1947,” he said.

He said a judicial commission should be constituted for investigation into alleged rigging in the general elections.

Siddiqui, while seemingly referring to the political turmoil both inside and outside Parliament, lamented that “democracy is losing its case” as the country remains gripped in multi-faceted crises after 22 years of continued democracy. PTI Chairman Barrister Gohar Ali Khan, while pointing at treasury benches, said these people lecture us. But look at them, did they not get their cases cleared from NAB when the PDM government came? “If they are champions of democracy then why did not they come forward when women were being put in jails.”

At the same time, PPP’s Raja Pervaiz Ashraf said: “If you speak bad about our leader, no one will spare your leader either.”

Gohar questioned whether there was no one else in the PPP except Zardari who could be given the Presidency. “These people come for personal interests, no son or nephew of Imran Khan is present in the House. Our 100 members are more powerful than their 200,” he said.

He said that MQMP had compromised its principles in the elections. “They have stolen our seats.” The PTI chairman said that the cipher was a fact, adding that the trial should be of those who overthrew the government, not of the one whose government was overthrown.

“We do not consider Shehbaz Sharif as the prime minister. He did not speak about releasing our women.” “Our speeches are not being aired on PTV and we are blacked out, Imran Khan can’t talk. Why is this? Gohar asked.

Speaking in the National assembly, Sardar Akhtar Mengal said that he congratulates Shehbaz Sharif, but the prime minister did not talk about imprisoned journalists in his speech. “Journalists have a great role in democracy in the politics of this country,” he said.

He demanded that Asad Toor and Imran Riaz were arrested but there was no talk of their release, demanding that the release of political prisoners should be immediate.

He said that the state secret agencies do not act against enemy India but they were conspiring against their own institutions. “Once upon a time, there was talk of aliens, the vote was considered to be respected, but the respect was given to notes and boots,” he said.

On this occasion, Deputy Speaker Ghulam Mustafa Shah said that the Constitution does not allow talking against the Army On which Akhtar Mengal said that you should show it in the Constitution. “We are not ready to sit in the House in which our honor is not protected.”

The sitting of National Assembly was marred with the pointing out of quorum, and the NA deputy speaker had to adjourn the House till Friday evening.

Meanwhile, the PPP chairman and Chief of Army Staff General Asim Munir exchanged pleasantries during the oath-taking ceremony of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif at Aiwan-e-Sadr.

PPP Co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari also exchanged pleasantries with former prime minister and PMLN supremo Nawaz Sharif and Punjab Chief Minister Maryam Nawaz.