War of words continues between PPP and PTI

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–Bilawal Bhutto says Imran Khan-led government can be toppled within a week ‘if Zardari allows’

–Fawad Chaudhry says PTI govt not seeking power shift in Sindh, only demanding CM Murad’s resignation over fake accounts JIT report

 

KARACHI/ISLAMABAD: Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari on Monday claimed that his party can topple the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government within a week if his father and party’s co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari gives the permission to do so, while Federal Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry has denied that the federal government was seeking a power shift in Sindh.

Tempers between PPP’s Sindh government and the PTI-led federal government have flared over the last few days after the former’s leaders were placed on the Exit Control List (ECL) who are among the 172 suspects named in a report compiled by a Supreme Court-mandated joint investigation team (JIT) probing fake bank accounts and money laundering case. Names of former president Asif Ali Zardari, his sister Faryal Talpur, son Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari and CM Murad are among those included in the no-fly list.

Criticising the PTI government over the federal cabinet’s decision to place PPP leaders on the ECL, Bilawal laughed off the PTI’s attempt to oust Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah and rumours of the imposition of governor’s rule in the province.

“We knew they lack political acumen but now we can see that their math is weak as well,” he told media in Karachi. “We [PPP] have 99 MPAs in the Sindh Assembly. They will need to break about 49 to 50 MPAs to impose governor’s raj.”

“However, the federal government can collapse any time as they have a meagre lead of 17 MNAs. We can topple their [PTI] government within a week and send them to jail if only Zardari permits us to do so.”

‘PTI SHORT OF 49 TURNCOATS’:

Bilawal remarked that the PTI was short of 49 turncoats to form its government in the province, saying that they know nothing about politics “as well as counting”.

“[PTI] will have to arrange 49 turncoats to form a government because after the 18th Amendment you need more than 50 per cent majority for a vote on the chief minister’s [slot].”

The PPP chief warned that the PTI only has a majority of six seats in the Centre and “an even smaller majority in Punjab […]”, warning that “we can dislodge them and send them behind bars.”

Moreover, Bilawal rejected the JIT report and termed it “a work of fiction”. He said it was obvious the government was behind the report. “The report was seen by the government before it was submitted to the Supreme Court. Their role has been exposed.”

“We have pressing issues such as terrorism yet the government is busy on a fake JIT report. Their target is Sindh government. Those who do not want Sindh to prosper want to change the chief minister,” he alleged.

The PPP chief asked the reporters to attest whether there had been any report of corruption committed by him through PPP’s tenures in Centre and province. “We will fight the cases in courts. Fake cases had been lodged against Zardari in the past as well. He was acquitted then, he will be acquitted again,” he concluded.

FAWAD CLARIFIES:

Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry, however, sought to allay concerns that the federal government was seeking a power shift in Sindh at the expense of toppling the PPP government, clarifying that his party was merely demanding the resignation of CM Murad.

“We are only demanding the resignation of Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah,” the info minister said while talking to reporters in Islamabad. “We never said that governor’s rule should be imposed in Sindh.”

“We have decided [not to endorse] the impression that we are changing the government in Sindh. All we say is that Murad Ali Shah should be relieved of his post. Two of our ministers had also tendered resignations when charges against them had materialised.

“The mandate for this change is with the representatives of Sindh Assembly and I am glad that they are amping up the pressure on the chief minister [to resign],” he commented.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court (SC) has directed the federal cabinet to reconsider the list of 172 individuals – named in the JIT report – who were placed on the ECL, expressing displeasure over the act as the court resumed the hearing of the fake accounts case.

Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Mian Saqib Nisar had summoned Minister for State for Interior Shehryar Afridi after the attorney general failed to give a satisfactory answer and also sought the approved summary by the cabinet regarding the ECL list.

The bench has given Zardari and Talpur one week to submit a reply over the JIT report.