Home Opinion Op-Ed Bilawal Bhutto’s Fiery Budget Speech: Opposition’s Attempts to Escape Accountability?

Bilawal Bhutto’s Fiery Budget Speech: Opposition’s Attempts to Escape Accountability?

In his fiery speech at the National Assembly, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari termed the newly formed inquiry commission into foreign debts, accumulated by former governments during the past decades, as “ridiculously unconstitutional”. Mr. Bhutto-Zardari faced harsh criticism from sitting Federal Ministers over attempt to save face and escape accountability.

Bilawal

News Desk |

Criticizing the newly-formed Commission of Inquiry to investigate how the former two governments had obtained and utilized foreign debts for the past decade, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, PPP Chairman, termed it as “ridiculously unconstitutional and undemocratic”, on Monday.

Addressing the National Assembly, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari announced that the PPP will not present themselves for inquiry before this commission, a commission formed under Section 3 of Pakistan Commission of Inquiry Act, 2017.

Media reports reveal that Maulana Asad will inform them of the new schedule after consulting his father.

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said, “After undermining our political, human and democratic rights, they (government) now want to undermine the sovereignty of this very parliament. I want to ask, what is this ridiculously unconstitutional debt commission and how is it possible that the collective wisdom of this House can be questioned by the likes of National Accountability Bureau, Inter-Services Intelligence or Military Intelligence?”

Terming the National Assembly as the “supreme institution” of the country, Bilawal Bhutto argued that all investigative institutions, including NAB, ISI and MI, are answerable to this House.

Read more:  Bilawal Bhutto calls PM Imran ‘incompetent, unskilled’

Bhutto argue that if any parliamentary decision is to be reviewed, the appropriate forum would be a finance committee, a public accounts committee, or even a whole new committee formed with the purpose of investigation.

He said, “Budgetary decisions, including debt, are the sole domain of the National Assembly. We will not subject ourselves before any institution, let alone some debt commission. This is absolutely undemocratic and unconstitutional.”

Criticizing the newly-formed Commission of Inquiry to investigate how the former two governments had obtained and utilized foreign debts for the past decade.

The PPP Chairman raised another question, “What is the National Development Council (NDC)? The Constitution already mandates the National Economic Council, what is the legal basis for this Development Council?”

He added, “Our armed forces are supposed to be the ones institution with the most integrity. We keep them away from political and economic decisions because we want our one credible institution to remain uncontroversial.”

Read more: Bilawal Bhutto’s sexist remarks on his marriage offend people

Censorship in Naya Pakistan

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari accused the PTI-led government of creating a “censored Pakistan” rather than a Naya Pakistan, where members of the Parliament are not allowed to utter certain words in their speeches. The PPP Chairman observed that censorship will not aid in creating a democratic environment focused on growth and prosperity, but in fact, it will work like oil on fire as suppression always leads to frustration and negative consequences.

Once again, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari urged the speaker of the National Assembly to issue production orders for MNAs Ali Wazir and Mohsin Dawar, so that the “house can complete” to vote on the finance budget 2019-20 which is still being debated in the House.

Addressing the Speaker, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said, “It is within your power, and as the Speaker of this House, you do not have to ask the Law Ministry or the Prime Minister, it is within your right to issue the production orders of the MNAs of North and South Waziristan. It is best if you take this decision and complete this House or else, history will remember that the honorable members of North and South Waziristan were denied their right to partake in the budget and speak for their people.”

PTI-led government of creating a “censored Pakistan” rather than a Naya Pakistan, where members of the Parliament are not allowed to utter certain words in their speeches.

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari highlighted that “constructive criticism” is important for the health of every democracy and the notions of free speech and freedom of speech allows all narratives and opinions to form a consensus after a free and fair debate.

He said, “Naya Pakistan does not allow any independence for the people, journalism, and politicians-censorship has increased to an extent that even the Members of the National Assembly are being censored.” Bilawal Bhutto Zardari criticized that censorship in Pakistan is unacceptable and the federal government must open up the platform for criticism and free debate.

Read more: Fake accounts case: JIT questions Bilawal Bhutto

Opposition Escaping Accountability?

Addressing the House in response to the fiery speech made by the PPP Chairman, Minister Communications Murad Saeed highlighted the scores of corruption committed by PPP and PML-N throughout their history in Pakistan’s politics. Murad Saeed advised the members of the opposition to adopt a legal route to clear themselves of corruption allegations, and prove their innocence.

Referring to the book written by former US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Minister Saeed argued that slain PPP leader and former Prime Minister, Benazir Bhutto, had practically “begged” Washington to eliminate all corruption cases filed against her, and assist her in eliminating the constitution bar on her being elected prime minister for the third time.

The PPP Chairman observed that censorship will not aid in creating a democratic environment focused on growth and prosperity, but in fact, it will work like oil on fire.

Murad Saeed further shed light on former premier Nawaz Sharif’s claims of not taking any salary for his duties, despite the fact that his medical and travel expenses cost the national exchequer $327,000 in 2016 alone. Moreover, Murad Saeed highlighted that Nawaz Sharif took another Rs1,000 million from the national exchequer for fencing and security of his personal residence, Jati Umra.

On the sidelines of the budget debate, leaders of PML-N and PPP requires Maulana Asad Mehmood, the son of JUI-F Chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman, to delay the All-Party Conference scheduled for Wednesday, giving the budget voting in the Assembly. Media reports reveal that Maulana Asad will inform them of the new schedule after consulting his father.

Read more: Bilawal Bhutto or Bilawal Zardari?

Opposition’s APC a Non-Starter?

Jan Achakzai, Baloch Geo-strategist and former adviser to the Balochistan government, observed that the All-Party Conference organized by the opposition is “already a non-starter”.

Achakzai noted, “PPP is in no mood to launch a campaign to dislodge Imran Khan’s government due to vulnerabilities, which include the Sindh government, the massive investment of duo Asif Ali Zardari & Malik Riaz’s joint-ventures; and the fact that Bilawal Bhutto Zardari is bluster without Asif Ali Zardari still pulling his strings.”

He stated, “A shrewd Asif Ali Zardari hopes to pay for relief.”

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