LAHORE  -  PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has said that Asma Jehangir was an inspiration for all democracy loving people in Pakistan as she worked for sanctity of will of the people.

Bilawal said that PPP will stoutly and resolutely resist any move aimed at the rolling back of 18th Amendment.

He was addressing the closing ceremony of Asma Jehangir Conference held at local hotel attended by intelligentsia, legal fraternity, parliamentarians, rights activists from foreign countries and large number of students.

Moneeze Jehangir moderated the closing ceremony.

A total of 21 sessions were held in the two-day conference organised to pay tributes to the human rights defender Asma Jehangir organised by AGHS Legal Aid Cell, Asma Jehangir’s Law Firm in collaboration with the Supreme Court Bar Association with theme of ‘Justice of Empowerment’.

Bilawal said that Asma worked for bonded labourers to women abusive marriages and defended human rights of marginalised people as she was a warrior of pluralistic Pakistan.

“Our democracy is under attack not from un-elected forces but also from so-called democrats,” he added.

He criticised the government for taking loan to run the country’s economy and termed it ‘chanda-nomics’ and for consistent U-turns on policies.

“Media in Pakistan is under assault and facing unprecedented censorship,” he said.

Slogans of ‘Zinda hay Bhutto zinda hay’ were raised during and at the end of his speech.

Minister for Human Rights Dr Shireen Mazari said that Asma Jehangir was a great mother and human rights defender and we should continue her legacy.

“Ills of the system which we inherited cannot be put on our shoulders and we as a duty will reform the system. I believe PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari will support us (PTI) in human rights agenda”, she hoped.

She blamed previous governments for not implementing National Action Plan on which every party agreed.

We went for military courts because we do not have reforms in criminal judicial system but incumbent PTI government is now doing these reforms, she stated.

“Foreign Affairs Committee in previous government had rejected our proposal to include Parliament's role to rectify international treaties,” she said.  

Former Speaker National Assembly Sardar Ayaz Sadiq observed one minute silence on the handcuffing of professors who were presented before the NAB court. “It pained me,” he said.

He said that with our efforts now in 17 universities Parliamentary studies are being taught. He alleged that NAB should not have acted like ‘Nawaz Accountability Bureau’ but National Accountability Bureau.

He said that he left the question for audience whether judges appointments should be made through open discussions followed by written tests and interviews.

The former NA Speaker, while paying tribute to Asma Jehangir, said "let's create heroes rather than showing them villains".

Left-wing politician of Awami National Party Afrasiab Khattak said that the current government is a "stop gap" arrangement and mainstreaming of extremist parties is a worrisome situation, adding, that political parties should bring democracy in themselves to make Pakistan prosperous.

Another session titled ‘Electoral reforms-Post Election 2018’ was addressed by former interim government Information Minister Ali Zafar, President Pildat Ahmed Bilal Mehboob, veteran politician Farooq Sattar, PPP leader Ch Manzoor and Shazia Marri. Journalist Nasim Zehra moderated it.

Farooq Sattar said that the Constitutional reforms were needed to bring change in body politics of Pakistan like feudalism, politics of hate, inheritance and involvement of so much money in politics.

“It’s very difficult to draw fine line among idealism, practicality and pragmatism,” Sattar said.

In Electoral Reforms Committee we were left out because we repeatedly raised the point how to restrain political parties from spending expenditure beyond limits during elections, he said.

Political parties paid content is one such thing through which they influence public opinion, he stated.

Other than this, land reforms should be introduced in letter and spirit while Local Government reforms are also need of the hour, he added.

Ahmed Bilal Mehboob said that the Election Act 2017 was a major contribution of Parliament to empower the Election Commission of Pakistan.

Ali Zafar said that he highlighted 47 issues in 2013 general elections.

In 2018 we have the most powerful ECP and they had literally the power to rule the country during interim setup, he added.

The former Minister underlined the need for a provision in the system to fine a citizen who doesn't exercise his/her right to vote.

In his opinion people should be encouraged to vote for any candidate of their choice. He also proposed that a citizen should also the right to vote for nobody if he did not like any of the contestants.

PPP legislator Shazia Marri said that to bring electoral reforms political parties should work together.

Every political party should strive if someone tried to encroach on their mandate, she stated.