Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari on Sunday called for the scope of existing accountability laws to be expanded to include both sitting and retired judges, as he lashed out at the judiciary for “making a mockery” of itself through double standards of justice.
Addressing an event in Karachi to mark the golden jubilee of the 1973 Constitution, the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) chairman stressed that no institution was free of corruption, including the judiciary and executive branches of government. “I am very sorry to say that the way our apex court is going with double standards, it’s so difficult for parties like us to defend its actions,” he said, adding that it was “intolerable” for a former prime minister from Larkana—Zulfikar Ali Bhutto—to be executed while another from Zaman Park—Imran Khan—was granted a week’s time to appear in court due to a pain in his leg. “This dual system cannot work, nor would we let it,” he said, as he criticized the judiciary for its role in bringing down governments of some parties, even as it protected others.
“For how long will we continue this concept of holy cows?” he asked, stressing this must come to a halt. “For the judiciary or any other institution, there should be the same law, which applies to the common man. Every Pakistani, under the law, deserves the same treatment,” he added.
“How is it possible that you can bring down BB’s [Benazir Bhutto] government with a mere editorial in a newspaper, but to save the government of [PTI chief] Khan sahib, you can even amend and rewrite the Constitution?” he continued, lamenting that it was against the spirit of the Constitution to penalize a common man for wrongdoing while having no checks on the judiciary for the same reason. He said he would personally propose an amendment to existing accountability laws to hold both sitting and retired judges accountable for “wrongdoing.”
Noting that the PPP had always maintained that the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) was created for political engineering, he questioned why judges were examining amendment to its law. “If they want to disband the NAB, go ahead, we are not interested in it,” he added.
During his speech, Bhutto-Zardari also addressed the prevailing challenges facing Pakistan, stressing that political dialogue was the only solution to crises ranging from the economy to terrorism to social reforms. He recalled that PPP founder Zulfikar Ali Bhutto had initiated political dialogue and introduced a Constitution promulgated through consensus, establishing a social contract between the state and the people of Pakistan that granted equal rights and every protection under the law.
“Then Benazir Bhutto decided to bring the country out of crisis and restore democracy by convincing all political stakeholders over the Charter of Democracy. And when we came to power in 2008, President Asif Ali Zardari revived this tradition through the 18th Amendment, which guarantees the country’s survival and integrity,” he said, adding the PPP had also introduced the Benazir Income Support Program.
Referring to Khan, the foreign minister said he had been removed as prime minister through a successful no-trust motion after being installed “in violation of the system and the Constitution.” Accusing the PTI of having issues with the Constitution, he said: “They didn’t accept it earlier nor are they accepting it now. We thought to remove an undemocratic person by launching a democratic attack,” he said, lamenting that despite Khan’s removal, the mindset against the Constitution had not changed.
“The former premier [Khan] damaged the country for his own interests and divided every institution,” he said, adding no one could say how long it would take the country to recover from the damages incurred. “We have faced many challenges,” he said. “How can we deal with the issues of inflation, poverty and hunger if we keep fighting each other? If we keep fighting from Peshawar to Karachi, then it will only benefit the terrorists,” he added.