Aseefa Bhutto Zardari, the daughter of former president Asif Ali Zardari, sees a lot of similarities between Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government and the dictatorship of Gen (r) Pervez Musharraf.
While evaluating the one-year performance of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) in an interview with the BBC Urdu Service, she noted that PM Khan “has the same cabinet ministers as Musharraf had”.
“Imran Khan has had more failures than successes. There has been a crackdown on freedom of speech, freedom of association, human rights – these are all happening under his term,” she said.
The daughter of the PPP chief also targeted the prime minister over his past promises. She said, “He [Imran Khan] had promised the Pakistani people that he would create 10 million jobs. However, he has yet to create a single job. He has actually created more instability and many millions of people have been laid off due to this economic instability.
“He promised he would make five million homes. He is yet to make one house and has [instead] destroyed millions [of homes].
“He promised that he would rather commit suicide than go asking other nations for aid; however, he is seen in every single country with the same begging bowl in his hand,” she said.
Talking about inflation, she said, “If you ask the ordinary person, the common man of the streets, they will tell you that inflation is at an all-time high; unemployment is at an all-time high. They will tell you that the electricity is expensive, bread is expensive and gas is expensive, the cost of living is expensive, and even death is expensive in Pakistan.”
“This is what is happening today in Imran Khan’s Pakistan – U-turn after U-turn,” she said.
She also compared the incumbent regime with the former government of the PPP, describing the Zardari-led party’s tenure as “better” than the current government.
“If you compare this with the PPP government – despite a world recession, despite the war on terrorism, despite two natural disasters – the PPP was able to create six million jobs. It created the first social net for millions of Pakistanis from across Pakistan, the Benazir Income Support Programme.
“Former president Zardari strengthened ties with China by creating the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, which is going to create economic opportunity for Pakistan and will benefit the region also. We restored the 1973 Constitution; we gave provinces greater power. This and many other things are the reason why the PPP government was centered on people’s rights and opportunities for everyone. Imran Khan’s government is none of these things,” she claimed.
Talking about her motivation to join politics despite hardships, she said that she had lost her grandfather, her mother and said her family “had made a lot of sacrifices”.
“One only needs to go to Ghari Khuda Baksh to see how many of my family members have been sacrificed for Pakistan. The options [for me] are to either remain silent or speak up. My grandfather chose to speak up for the people’s rights. My mother chose to speak up for the people’s rights, and my brother also speaks up for the people’s rights on the basis of my grandfather’s mission and my mother’s vision.”
“My brother speaks for the entire Pakistan, and we will therefore continue to speak up and stand by our chairman, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari.”
Aseefa criticised the PTI-led government for its Kashmir policy as well. “Personally, I think that Imran Khan’s delayed speech in the parliament lacked direction. It was a failure. The foreign minister went to Azad Jammu and Kashmir and said that we should not expect much from the international community, which is ridiculous.” “It is outrageous what is happening in Kashmir, and there needs to be international as well as national outrage. I would like to reiterate what my father said on the parliamentary floor, that had this happened under his term, the first flight he would have taken would be to the United Arab Emirates, then to China, then to Russia, then to Iran to call upon our Muslims brothers and sisters and our allies to stand by us and denounce the fascist and humanitarian crisis that is happening in Kashmir.”
She said that the in this regard. “I think the international community needs to condemn the situation in Kashmir and much more. There is not enough condemnation for the situation in Kashmir.”
“The state-backed atrocities in Jammu and Kashmir include women being raped, children being murdered, protesters being shot at. If anyone holds a Pakistan flag, soldiers think that they have a right to shot at them. These are grave human rights violations and the international world is silent and their silence is deafening,” she said.
She also reiterated her concerns over the health of her father, Asif Ali Zardari, who is currently incarcerated for his alleged role in a massive money laundering case. She demanded that the government shift the former president to a hospital for proper medical treatment.
“I first heard about the severity of the situation when a BBC article came out saying my father needed to go to a hospital and the government was reluctant to move him.”
“I managed to come to Islamabad to meet my father, I had a court order in hand that gave me permission to meet him. However, once I arrived at the hospital, the authorities had locked all the doors. The patients were not allowed to come in or come out; citizens were not allowed to enter. I managed to enter and was waiting for my father to complete some tests.
“While I was waiting for him and he was returning, some 30 policemen surrounded him. The women manhandled me, the men were pushing us back as well. I tried to catch a glimpse of my father but the police were determined not let my father see my face.
“I pushed through, I held his hand. I tried to walk into his room; however, the women police were still pulling me back and physically trying to restrain me from letting me bring my father to his hospital room.”
She said that she had spoken to Zardari’s doctors and they stated that they were very concerned as three of his arteries are blocked.
“He is not only a sugar patient, but due to his last 11-and-a-half-year incarceration and due to the torture he suffered, he developed severe back problems. His spinal issues have returned in his present condition.”
She said that her father’s doctors were under the impression that further tests needed to be conducted and further treatment needed to be continued in a hospital.
“Later on that day, I found out through the media that they shifted my father back to jail clearly without the doctors’ permission. The doctors were being pressurised before and the government clearly succeeded in pressurising them to send my father back to jail.”
“I am absolutely not satisfied with the treatment. My father needs to be in hospital under doctors’ observation until they say he is fit enough to go back to jail.”
Talking about the much-talked NRO – a plea bargain between her father and the government – she said, “The current government keeps saying that they are not interested in giving NRO, they won’t give an NRO: our response is who is asking for an NRO? My father spent 11-and-a-half years in jail, being tortured, and he never asked for an NRO.
“He does not have a single conviction against him and he will not make a deal. So I do not think my father will cut a deal anytime soon.”