Islamabad - PPP Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari on Monday slammed the government’s performance on economic front and accused it of favouring the rich against the poor.

Addressing a press conference at Zardari House here, he urged the PTI government to provide relief to the poor and go hard on the rich if it has to for creating fiscal space.

Speaking hours after DG ISPR Major General Asif Ghafoor held a long-running press briefing, the PPP chairperson said the military spokesperson should not be issue political statements.

The DG ISPR had said the state would take legal action against the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM), alleging that the group had been receiving funding from Indian and Afghan intelligence agencies.

“I think if the government has something to say then a respective minister should come out and say it… we respect our institutions and don’t want to see them being made controversial in any way,” Bilawal said.

Criticizing Prime Minister Imran Khan over this, he said, “He [PM] should not be making the military spokesperson give a political statement.”

Asked if his party backed the PTM, as was indirectly suggested by Asif Ghafoor, he said they support their own party alone. “However, if other political groups stand for democracy and human rights then we back these ideas,” he added.

The PPP leader lambasted the National Accountability Bureau, reiterating his father Asif Zardari’s statement earlier in the day that the economy could not flourish side by side with the country’s apex anti-graft body.

He termed NAB a tool being used to victimise the opposition parties, saying the accountability watchdog had filed references “conveniently” against certain political leaders while letting others go scot-free. PPP leader Sharjeel Memon, Bilawal said, had been languishing in jail but the charges against him were yet to be proven.

Criticism on govt

Bilawal said the government in last nine months had failed to provide relief to the masses, adding that, “It is baffling to see how they [government] accept that they can’t help Pakistanis”.

“No one in the history of Pakistan took as much debt as they have taken in just several months of their government. They celebrate upon securing loans. What is there to celebrate when the poor and the common man will have to bear the burden of paying off these loans?” Bilawal asked.

“The way they are running the economy, there will be a reaction from the poor spectrum of the society. If you want to create fiscal space and burden someone then burden the rich like Jahangir Tareen. For the rich you have an amnesty scheme but for the poor you have inflation.

“Ramazan is coming, where is your Ramazan package? I demand that the government review its economic policy, and provide relief to the poor wherever possible.”

Bilawal advised to government to take inspiration from the PPP’s management of the economy during turbulent times.

“Look at what the PPP did during its government,” he said. “Despite global recession, terrorism at its peak, two floods and an environment of war, the PPP fought and gave more jobs than anyone else (6.8million), increased salaries by 150 per cent ... and did whatever was possible for the poor. You can do the same.”

The PPP leader said that the impending bailout package of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) must be passed through the parliament. “We don’t even know about the IMF programme,” he said. “The public will not agree if you go stealthily and sign the IMF deal. This would be illegal. You will have to bring the IMF deal to the parliament and get it passed from the National Assembly, otherwise we and the public won’t accept it.”

Bilawal criticised PM’s Adviser on Finance Abdul Hafeez Shaikh for not addressing the parliament. “Forget that, he has not even faced the camera to shed light on the state of the economy and the stabilisation measures he has in store,” he said.

He branded the government’s accountability drive as “hypocritical”, saying that “NAB and democracy can’t go hand in hand”. “There was a prime minister Junejo who said that martial law and democracy can’t go together.