ISLAMABAD - Pakistan Peoples’ Party Co-Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari on Tuesday warned of a countrywide protest if provincial autonomy was denied and the 18th constitutional amendment touched.

Speaking at a news conference here, Bilawal said the federal government was using the constitution to hide its own failures.

“Regarding the 18th amendment, they (the government) have just started a meaningless debate. For now, we want to concentrate on the coronavirus and not ask people to come on roads but if the government took any steps, the people will fight for their rights. There will be protests,” he said.


Bilawal said there was no problem created by the constitution. “Zulfikar Ali Bhutto got the constitution passed unanimously and this constitution was attacked during Ziaul Haq’s dictatorship and afterwards, during Pervez Musharraf’s dictatorship. It was ironic that General Zia’s name was a part of the constitution and we removed his name through the 18th Amendment,” he maintained.


He said Asif Ali Zardari was the most powerful president of this country but he gave up his powers and transferred them to the Prime Minister, thus making this country a true democracy.


“We restored the 1973 constitution and the anti-democratic people only oppose it because it is a democratic constitution, and they want a dictatorship. This is not the time to start this debate and we should not indulge in such tactics and should deal with the pandemic,” the PPP chief said.


To a question regarding Zardari’s health, he said Zardari suffered from underlying conditions such as diabetes and cardiac complications.


“According to the World Health Organisation guidelines, people with underlying conditions are advised to not leave their houses at all. Shehbaz Sharif (Pakistan Muslim League -Nawaz President) is a cancer patient, which is why they have refrained from attending the Parliamentary session,” had added.


Bilawal said Prime Minister Imran Khan gets his salary from the Parliament, and still does not attend it, “he is not doing his job.”


The PPP chief said in the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, food security was an issue that needed to be addressed worldwide and according to a UN report; Pakistan was more prone to facing damages due to a lack of food security.


“After 25 years, there has been a locust attack, and plant protection is the federal government’s subject. The federal government has failed to respond,” he added.


He said the federal government was given one year to prepare and it had promised the Sindh provincial government that it would send planes in March.


Benazir Bhutto, he said, had brought in planes from Iran and other countries in 90s when locust had attacked.


“The federal government promised us six planes and only one plane was provided to us. There have been locust attacks in Balochistan as well and the federal government has not helped at all. The way the federal government has not helped in the COVID-19 situation, similarly, no help has been offered during these locust attacks,” he said.


Bilawal also shared pictures showing the locust attacks all over Sindh - Jamshoro, Hyderabad and other areas.


“This is concerning for our agriculture; the federal government is sleeping and we demand that the whole of Pakistan should be protected. This is not an issue that only concerns the rural areas, cities too are impacted by it and we have to take this serious during the pandemic as well,” the PPP leader said.


To a question, he said that there had been no contact with the government after the speech in the National Assembly; the batting line was still the same.


“Serious people are making non-serious remarks. We condemn (Foreign Minister) Shah Mehmood Qureshi’s statement. When we talk about Sindh, it is said that we play the Sindh card. When I talk about Balochistan and its issues, then am I playing the Balochistan card, similarly if I am talking about KP’s issues then am I playing the KP card? When I talk about Kashmir and speak up about what our PM is afraid to say, then am I playing the Kashmir card? Shah Mehmood Qureshi should take back his words, and if not, he should resign,” he contended.


Bilawal said if I extend my hand towards the government you, “then I am met with remarks such as “we will prove our political strength” in Sindh. They talk about proving their political strength, but we know how their political strength has been proven.”


He said when Qureshi was the PPP minister, “we know who approached him and fuelled his dreams of becoming a future prime minister of the country. Eleven health workers have passed away while serving the country, 600 Pakistanis have died at the hands of COVID-19.”


Bilawal said Prime Minister Imran Khan “uses the poor” in order to benefit the elite adding he met with the business-oriented class but not with the farmer representatives or trade unions.


“The PM was trying to woo the industrialists and was fulfilling their demands; he was giving construction package to Anil Musarrat and other construction tycoons in the name of relief package. On the other hand, we in Sindh, wanted him to give a coronavirus relief package and wanted him to provide relief to the people of Sind but the federal government tried sabotaged our efforts,” the PPP chief said,


The governor, he said, did not sign the package. “We do not want to get into any debate and we will again send that package to the governor again. You have delayed relief for the people of Sindh. The PTI should copy paste our coronavirus relief package for other provinces as well and we want the people of other provinces to benefit from it,” he advised.


About the sugar report, he said that this was a gimmick because PTI never wanted accountability and just wants its people and allies to stay loyal.


“This sugar gimmickry proves that either the prime minister is corrupt and wants to give benefit to his cronies,” Bilawal said.


To a question he said that if the judicial and executive bodies were proceeding with their activities, then the National Assembly should do the same.


Bilawal said that the National Assembly was there to hold the executive accountable and its sessions should be held. “The federal government should take our advice seriously. If the federal government wants to give us more responsibility, then it has to give us more resources,” he remarked.