PTI govt cannot be trusted with cracking down against banned organisations: Bilawal

PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari on Thursday said he does not trust PTI with cracking down on banned organisations while reiterating his demand that the government remove from the federal cabinet a trio of ministers who he accuses of having “long-held ties” with proscribed organisations.

“We doubt your intentions [of the promised crackdown against proscribed organisations] because you were allied with proscribed organisations [when you] fought elections,” Bilawal said, referring to the ruling party.

“Everyone knows that three ministers in the cabinet have a long history with banned outfits. Until you remove them, we will keep doubting you,” he said.

“One minister’s video went viral on social media. He can be seen assuring them [leaders of a proscribed party] that ‘we will not take action against you until our government is in place’.

“The other minister made inductions into the PTI from UN-banned organisations like HUM (Harkatul Mujahideen al-Islami) during the elections. He then said on the floor of the house that ‘If you are speaking against banned outfits and the National Action Plan then that is against the country’s interest.

“The third one not only has a long history of being associated with banned outfits, but he has also helped run militant outfits and training camps,” the PPP leader alleged.

“Folks with this mentality should not be in the ‘Naya Pakistan’ cabinet,” he said.

The ‘viral video’ Bilawal is referring to could possibly be one which features Minister of State for Interior Shehryar Khan Afridi giving assurances to a group of men.

In the video, which has been circulating on social media for quite some time, Afridi can be seen in the company of a group of men, one of whom briefs him about the authorities’ plan to put the Milli Muslim League — which had been the political front for the Jamaatud Dawa — on a list of proscribed organisations.

To this, Afridi replies: “God willing, till we are in the assembly and till the PTI stands, no one can … Forget Hafiz Saeed sahab, we will support whoever supports Pakistan and its [sovereign] right. This is our belief. It will be our request to you to come and sit in the assembly and see for yourself whether we [are the ones who] stand for the kalma-e-haq, or others do.”

It bears mentioning that the government has stated as a matter of policythat it wishes to ‘mainstream’ militant groups by creating economic, social and political incentives to encourage them to give up violence as a way of life. This policy was unequivocally opposed by Bilawal in the National Assembly last week.

Tensions rising

Bilawal had first put forth his accusations against the government ministers in a marathon press conference on Wednesday, alleging that the Pakistan Tehreek-iInsaf (PTI) government was victimising opposition parties but not taking action against banned organisations, which was against the spirit of the National Action Plan (NAP) to counter terrorism.

The criticism came as the state speeds up its cases against the PPP’s senior leadership for its alleged involvement in a multi-billion rupee fake bank accounts scandal. The fake accounts were used to launder money for senior PPP leaders, including Bilawal’s father Asif Ali Zardari and aunt Faryal Talpur, the Federal Investigation Agency believes.

Earlier in the day, State Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Mohammad Khan had urged “Bilawal to provide proof, if he has any, against the ministers”.

“Levelling allegations without proof is an unreasonable act,” Khan said. “Evidence should be presented so that the prime minister can take action.

The state minister, however, agreed with Bilawal that if any minister “is in contact with any banned outfit then they should be sacked”.

“I do not know which ministers he is referring to,” he added.

The debate on action against proscribed organisations comes roughly a week after the government took 44 under-observation members of proscribed organisations, including Mufti Abdul Raoof and Hamad Azhar (no relation to the Minister of State for Revenue) — the brother and son of Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) leader Masood Azhar, respectively — in “preventive detention” for investigation.

The crackdown has acquired a renewed urgency as a Financial Action Task Force review looms of measures Pakistan is taking to counter money laundering and terror financing.

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