The only way to save Pakistan is to battle terrorism, PPP leader Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said today as he lashed out at politicians like Imran Khan whom he accused of backing militants.
In a hard-hitting speech at an event held at Garhi Khuda Baksh in Sindh province to mark the sixth anniversary of the assassination of his mother Benazir Bhutto, 25-year-old Bilawal said peace talks cannot be held with terrorists till they diasarm and accept the Constitution. "The only way to save Pakistan is to battle terrorism... and the only party standing against terrorism is the PPP (Pakistan People's Party)," he said while speaking in Urdu.
In a reference to cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan, who has been pushing for talks with the Taliban, he said: "Don’t make excuses in support of the terrorists, Buzdil (coward) Khan. "Buzdil Khan has surrendered before the Tehrik-e-Taliban and this war against terrorism cannot be won by blocking NATO supplies or holding rallies against (US) drone attacks," he said, referring to protests by Khan's party.
Rejecting links between extremism and drone strikes, Bilawal said Pakistan was a victim of terrorism before the US drone campaign began and terror attacks would continue even if the campaign ends.
He accused the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan of assassinating his mother and many other innocent people. He said he did not want to enter politics but changed his mind after his mother's death. He also criticised the Taliban for attacking non-Muslims and said Islam teaches respect for all religions.
Bilawal announced that he and his sisters, Aseefa and Bakhtawar, would become part of the political mainstream before the next general election in 2018. "We are the children of Benazir Bhutto and Asif Zardari who have always sacrificed for democracy...my father (former) President Zardari saved Pakistan from breaking up," he said.
PPP leaders have said that Bilawal, who became eligible to contest polls when he turned 25 in September, is expected to enter the National Assembly soon from a seat in Larkana, the traditional stronghold of the Bhutto family in Sindh.
A by-election is set to be held in the constituency after the resignation of PPP lawmaker Ayaz Soomro.
Addressing a massive gathering near the Bhutto family mausoleum, Bilawal took potshots at his political opponents and asked Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to prove he is not "an ally of terrorists". He contended that both Sharif and the terrorists had the "same father", late military ruler Zia-ul-Haq.
Sharif entered politics during the regime of Zia, who also gave a free rein to militant groups as part of the campaign against Soviet forces in Afghanistan.
However, Bilawal assured Sharif that the PPP would stand by him if anyone tried to derail democracy.
Bilawal mostly targeted Imran Khan in his speech, poking fun at his Tehrik-e-Insaf party's claim of launching a "tsunami" against corruption and poor governance. "A tsunami does not come with four pots filled with water," he said to roars from the crowd.
He claimed the May 11 general election was "engineered" as some elements in the establishment and judiciary did not want the PPP to come to power. He also targeted former Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry during his speech.
Lauding the public for strengthening democracy in the polls, Bilawal said people took revenge for his mother’s assassination by siding with democratic forces.