March 7, 2022
By Ahmed Saeed
Pakistan People’s Party chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari says it is imperative to review sensitive laws such as the ones dealing with sedition and enforced disappearances as he sets out to topple Prime Minister Imran Khan at the head of a PPP march on Islamabad.In an exclusive interview with Voicepk on-board a long march container that drives from Lahore to Wazirabad, Bilawal described some basic principles central to his approach on issues of human rights, inevitably, occasionally drifting into the area of power politics.
Talking about the roadblocks being put against another forwards initiative dedicated to the woman, Bilawal unequivocally supports the Aurat March and says any tactics to stop the event scheduled for March 8 is unacceptable.
On March 4, the Additional Deputy Commissioner (ADC) Lahore directed the police officials to advise the organisers of Aurat March not to hold the march “in the light of the security threats and possible conflict on the roads”.
The letter also added that in case the organisers decide to proceed with the march, they should be told they are fully responsible for the safety of the participants.
“The letter of federal minister (to stop Aurat March) is acceptable and such letters by the government is tantamount to threats to the march, which in my view is very unjustified,” Bilawal says. Forced conversions are a countrywide problem
In a reply to a question about criminalising forced conversions, the PPP chairman says that it is a countrywide problem and the practice is against the teachings of Islam.
“Islam does not allow to forcibly change anyone’s religion,” he says.
However, he admits that the PPP-led Sindh government tried to legislate on the issue a few years back but it failed.
“But we are trying to again legislate on the issue. Sindh is the first province which increased the minimum marriageable age for girls from 16 to 18 years and it helped us a lot in stopping the menace of forced conversions,” Bilawal says.
The PPP Chairman adds that the issue is prevalent in other parts of the country but the difference in Sindh is that their government stands with the oppressed and not with the oppressors.
Enforced disappearances is an endemic issue
On the issue of enforced disappearances, Bilawal says that it is an “endemic issue of Pakistan”.
“Such kind of incidents is totally unacceptable for any civilized country. In our last tenure, we legislated on the issue of enforced disappearances and also established a commission but sadly, the same person is leading the missing commission who is leading the National Accountability Bureau (NAB)”, he says.
Bilawal laments that the missing person commission has been dysfunctional now.
Necessary to address the abuse of sedition laws.
On the question of repealing sedition laws from the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC), the PPP leader says it is yet to ascertain whether it will be legally or politically feasible to completely remove sections of sedition from the statutory book.
However, he believes that the abuse of sedition laws must be addressed. “It is more likely to form a consensus in regulating the sedition laws. It may be a progressive dream to repeal sedition laws but currently, it will be very difficult to develop a consensus on this.” Addressing a query related to the role of the establishment in the country’s affairs, Bilawal says that his party always wants state institutions to remain within the ambit of the constitution.
“Such is the state of democracy in Pakistan that we are celebrating not receiving calls to pressurize us”, Bilawal adds.