The questions came thick and fast — “How?”, “What?” and “What the hell?” — from the lips of Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, as hands landed on tables in resounding approval.
The speech Bilawal gave in Pakistan’s Parliament on Wednesday may have been sharply critical of the Indian government — but it aimed plenty of zingers at Imran Khan and his administration, too.
The subject? Terrorism and extremism.
How, Bilawal asked, was it possible for Pakistan to “hang elected prime ministers” but not put banned groups on trial?
His own grandfather, the former premier Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, was deposed by General Zia-ul-Haq and hanged in 1979. Zulfikar languished in jail with bleeding gums, boils and rashes, and wrote how he was “melacholy” over the “final burial” of the Pakistani Constitution of 1973.
“We don’t need to fight terrorism, extremism, banned organisations…” Bilawal said in his speech, “…because the world wants us to, because we are under international pressure, because we are under India’s pressure.”
Then he went on the offensive, firing question after question.
“What happened to combatting hate speech and reforming our curriculum?”
“What happened to combatting terrorist financing and terror-related money laudering?”
“And, Mr Speaker, what the hell is mainstreaming?”
Here, watch this excerpt.
How is it possible that we hang elected prime ministers but we can’t banned orgs on trial? There is ehtesab only for the opposition but none for the banned orgs – There can be a JIT on my breakfast but there can’t be a JIT on banned orgs: Bilawal Bhutto Zardari in Parliament pic.twitter.com/NAn7S0ok1g
omar r quraishi (@omar_quraishi) March 6, 2019
But Bilawal Bhutto Zardari toed the Pakistani line on recent events. He denied, for example, that the suicide bombing Pulwama was masterminded in his country, blaming it instead on a Kashmiri youth’s anger at India.
Jaish-e-Mohammed, a Pakistan-based group, claimed responsibility for the attack, and the Indian Army has said Pakistan’s spy agency ISI was involved.
Tensions between India and Pakistan skyrocketed when New Delhi announced a pre-emptive strike on Jaish-e-Mohammed in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province last week, and Pakistan responded by sending its jets into India to try — unsuccessfully — to target military installations.
But there has been no further escalation since Pakistan returned an Indian pilot who was captured after he took down a Pakistani F-16 with a MiG-21 Bison.