A democracy-friendly PM can fight better for Kashmir cause: Bilawal

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Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari on Sunday claimed that no “selected prime minister” could fight for the Kashmir cause the way a “democracy-friendly” premier could.

Addressing a press conference in Skardu, Bilawal said there was no comparison between the military occupation in Indian-held Kashmir (IHK) and the undermining of democracy and human rights in Pakistan.

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Nonetheless, if Pakistan had been investing in democracy and a third “real [democratically elected] government” was in power, they could fight for the Kashmir cause with moral authority, he said.

Bilawal said it was important that he raised his voice for Kashmir at every possible opportunity, while also seeing the reaction of the people.

He said that Pakistanis knew that a “historic injustice” was taking place in IHK and that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was a murderer. However, he added that people also knew that Prime Minister Imran Khan “does not have the capability or legitimacy to provide the people of occupied Kashmir or Gilgit-Baltistan their rights”.

Bilawal asked how the premier could talk about injustice in IHK and about media restrictions in the disputed region if he had imposed “historic media restrictions in his own country”.

“How can he speak about restrictions of human rights in occupied Kashmir when he has restricted human rights?” he inquired, adding, “How can he speak about democracy in occupied Kashmir when he has led the funeral of democracy in his is own country?”

Earlier, Bilawal also raised doubts over the government’s sincerity with the Kashmir cause, saying the government was “not supporting the Kashmiris in an effective way”.

On Wednesday, the PPP leader had promised to wage a struggle for realising the democratic rights of the people of Gilgit-Baltistan and to fulfil the commitment made with the region’s people by late prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.

Bilawal on Sunday said that the people of Gilgit-Baltistan had seen that the premier was attacking democracy and human rights in the country.

“How can a person who is snatching democracy and constitutional and human rights away from us get the people of Gilgit-Baltistan their rights?”

The PPP leader said that people knew that only the democratic and “real leadership” of Pakistan could grant the people of Gilgit-Baltistan their rights and raise the voice for Kashmiris.

While responding to a question about India’s top opposition leaders, including former Congress president Rahul Gandhi, being sent back after they landed in Srinagar on Saturday, Bilawal said that this was very unfortunate.

“What are they hiding from him? If everything is transparent and rights are being granted and they are doing good things […] then why have you stopped the opposition leader of the country?” He said that while the politics of Pakistan and India were different, there were similarities regarding the democratic and undemocratic approaches used.

The PPP leader said that he had decided to spend Eidul Azha in Muzaffarabad as it was a “very good opportunity to send a message of unity” and after his announcement, the government also announced that they would send someone to Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK).

Bilawal added that the night he reached Muzaffarabad, his aunt, Faryal Talpur was “illegally” shifted from a hospital to jail.

“We feel that the government is trying to antagonise us […] PPP has seen this in the past and knows how to oppose this.”

He said that it would be very good if the PTI and the rest of the country gave attention to Gilgit-Baltistan the way his party (the PPP) was giving. “Right now I feel like the PPP is leading … and the government is playing the role of the opposition in the government,” the PPP leader remarked.

Govt reacts:

Meanwhile, reacting strongly to the news conference of Bilawal, the PTI leadership was witnessed expressing severe anger as it termed Bilawal’s address “ludicrous”.

Prime Minister’s Special Assistant on Information and Broadcasting Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan and Federal Minister for Telecommunications Murad Saeed held a joint presser in the federal capital where both of them slammed the PPP chairperson.

“Today, Karachi has become a pile of trash. Innocent children of Sindh are dying due to inept governance of the PPP,” Firdous said.

Taking a jibe at the PPP leadership, Murad Saeed said, “The accidental chairman’s talk was ridiculous. Whenever his father Asif Zardari is grilled regarding corruption, they claim that democracy is in danger.”