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Saturday, Nov 16, 2019

Maryam Nawaz, Bilawal Bhutto meet amid arrests of leaders in Pakistan

Maryam Nawaz and Bilawal Bhutto discussed the political and economic situation, though the meeting had no formal agenda

world Updated: Jun 17, 2019 12:42 IST
Imtiaz Ahmad
Imtiaz Ahmad
Islamabad, Pakistan
Maryam Nawaz of the PML-N and Bilawal Bhutto of Pakistan Peoples Party met in Lahore to discuss the contemporary political situation in Pakistan.
Maryam Nawaz of the PML-N and Bilawal Bhutto of Pakistan Peoples Party met in Lahore to discuss the contemporary political situation in Pakistan.(AFP Photo)
         

Maryam Nawaz of the PML-N and Bilawal Bhutto of Pakistan Peoples Party met in Lahore on Sunday to discuss the contemporary political situation in Pakistan amid doubts of political vendetta in the recent arrests of leaders from both parties.

The duo, whose fathers are in jail now, resolved to work for the independence of judiciary. They discussed the political and economic situation, though the meeting had no formal agenda. In response to a query, Maryam tweeted that the decision to invite the PPP chairman had been made after the approval of her father and former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and uncle and party president Shehbaz Sharif.

The recent arrests of Bhutto’s father- former president Asif Ali Zardari- and Zardari’s sister Faryal Talpur raised questions about the timings as well as the intentions of the Imran Khan government. Hamza Shahbaz, a Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) stalwart and leader of the opposition in the Punjab assembly, was also arrested by the National Accountability Bureau, the country’s anti-graft body, on money-laundering charges. Hamza is the son of Shahbaz Sharif, the leader of the opposition in parliament.

Also read: Pakistan fails to fulfil 25 of 27 action points given by terror finance watchdog

Media reports suggest that Nawaz Sharif, who is incarcerated at Kot Lakhpat Jail since December 2018, has advised Maryam to lead a movement against the government. Prime minister Imran Khan has vowed to arrest all those involved in money laundering and corruption, “come what may.” The problem, say critics, is that the accountability is selective as only opposition leaders are targeted. Some say that the issue isn’t corruption. It is politics.

Former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi told the media that the arrests have come ahead of plans for a joint political movement against the government.

When he was PM, Abbasi called for a national debate on future civil-military relations. “The issue of civil-military relations would remain there irrespective of who formed the next government, besides the role of other stakeholders like the judiciary, the NAB and the media,” he told the media. Abbasi also said that as prime minister, he could not perform his duties because of what he called “constant interference by the army.” Predictably, he was barred by the election commission from participating in the 2018 elections.

The general impression in Pakistan is that only those who go against the military are hauled up before the courts. The opposition cited many examples of ruling party members getting away in many cases. It was this very issue that Justice Qazi Faez Isa of the Supreme Court was taking up, when instead there was reference filed against him over undisclosed property. The barring of opposition voices in Pakistan in such a systematic manner, say critics, suggests that the accountability drive is just an exercise to silence dissent. This is the bigger challenge for Pakistanis.