PPP chief Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari on Monday accused the current regime of playing “psychological games” with him and his family and “threatening” him to change his stance otherwise his father, party colleagues and workers will face the music.

Bilawal was speaking to reporters outside an accountability court in Islamabad, where former president Asif Ali Zardari had appeared for a hearing in a case pertaining to the Toshakhana reference.

Bilawal said his party had stood up against military dictators, be it Yayha Khan, Ziaul Haq or Pervez Musharraf and will continue to resist against the current “hybrid regime” as well.

“We feel that we are being pressurised and threatened to toe the line, to follow the script, to agree to repeal the 18th Amendment, to alter the NFC award, to allow this house to pass a black law. But we won’t budge from our stance,” he announced.ARTICLE CONTINUES AFTER AD

“I want to say this through the media that if you want to arrest my entire family, do it. We will not allow any harm to befall the 18th Amendment or the 1973 Constitution. Do whatever you want.”

He also criticised National Accountability Bureau’s (NAB) lawyer for “abusing” Zardari’s counsel in the court, saying that the prosecutor resorted to such behaviour because he “did not have any arguments”.

The PPP lawmaker lamented that Zardari, who had obtained bail from the Islamabad High Court on medical grounds last year, was ordered to appear before court in person even though he had underlying conditions and was at risk of contracting Covid-19.

He added that the hearing was adjourned without any development in the case “so that Zardari would have to appear before the court and expose himself once again on another day”.

Lawyers bicker in court

Former president Zardari had arrived in court with his children Bilawal and Aseefa Bhutto-Zardari amid heavy security. Aseefa, while sharing images of police deployed near the court, had criticised the arrangements and said: “Called to court only to have our lawyers forcibly stopped by LEAs All access points blocked by police. These are the excessive security arrangement for the Court hearing of a civilian elected President (who has never run from Courts).”

Earlier, the hearing of the Toshakhana case was marred by bickering between NAB prosecutor Sardar Muzaffar Abbasi and the legal counsels of Zardari and PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif, both of whom are nominated in the reference.

Supreme Court lawyer Barrister Tassaduq Hanif told the court that he was manhandled by the police while Zardari’s legal counsel Farooq H. Naek said he was not being allowed to enter the court premises. Jahangir Jadoon, who was representing Nawaz, also said the same, sparking a reaction from the NAB prosecutor.

Former president Asif Ali Zardari arrives in court with his daughter Aseefa Bhutto-Zardari. — DawnNewsTV
Former president Asif Ali Zardari arrives in court with his daughter Aseefa Bhutto-Zardari. — DawnNewsTV

“If you want to proceed with the case then you will have to decide if lawyers can appear in this court,” Naek said before the judge. He also pointed out that the courtroom was full of people.

“Asif Zardari is ill, if [he] contracts coronavirus, who will be responsible?”

Zardari had last week asked the court to allow him to appear via video link but was ordered to appear in person. He had told PPP workers not to form a crowd outside the court in light of the Covid-19 crisis.

Jadoon, in his arguments, said that a petition pertaining to the case filed on behalf of Nawaz is currently pending in Islamabad High Court and urged the judge to adjourn proceedings until the high court issued a verdict.

Last week, the accountability court had issued non-bailable arrest warrants for Nawaz, who was declared an absconder in the case after he failed to appear in person. The former premier had on Saturday challenged the warrants in IHC, requesting the court to allow his pleader to appear in the Toshakhana case on his behalf. The hearing on Nawaz’s plea was fixed for today.

The accountability court, during today’s hearing, accepted Jadoon’s request and adjourned the hearing until September 9. The judge also directed authorities to suspend measures to declare Nawaz a proclaimed offender.

The court will frame charges against Zardari and former premier Yousaf Raza Gillani in the Toshakhana case during the next hearing.

According to the reference, Nawaz and Zardari had obtained luxury cars from the Toshakhana by paying only 15 per cent of the price of those vehicles. NAB alleged that ex-PM Gillani facilitated the allotment of vehicles to Zardari and Sharif by ‘dishonestly’ and ‘illegally’ relaxing the procedure for the acceptance and disposal of gifts through a cabinet division memorandum of 2007.