Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) chief Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari has named his sister and daughter of the late former prime minister (PM) Benazir Bhutto, Assefa Bhutto-Zardari, to lead the party in case he is arrested by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) in the days to come.
As the PPP chairman spoke to journalists after appearing before the anti-graft watchdog in the case related pertaining to JV Opel-255 — a joint venture between Zardari Group Pvt Ltd, of which Bilawal is a director, and a large real-estate business –, he was asked about his party’s plans regarding the execution of its forthcoming protest movement against the “anti-people” government’s economic policies in case he was arrested by NAB.
“The [protest] march would go on come what may. Both the leaders and workers of the PPP know what struggle is and have never shied away from it,” Bilawal said, adding that his sister Assefa would, however, be there to lead PPP workers. “She’ll be my voice if I am arrested.”
Earlier, Bilawal appeared before NAB for hearing of the case regarding JV Opel-255.
PPP Senator Mustafa Nawaz Khokar had confirmed Bilawal’s appearance before the accountability bureau.
“PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari will appear before the NAB despite the fact that the NAB notice to him is just political victimisation. The PPP chairman believes in the supremacy of the law of the land,” Khokar had said.
Khokar had noted that NAB sent Bilawal a notice within the week after he protested against the PTI’s “anti-poor” economic policies.
“NAB sends a notice to Bilawal whenever he criticises the government,” he had alleged, adding that the Supreme Court (SC) has already declared Bilawal innocent. “This is nothing but political victimisation by NAB.”
The PPP chairman on Thursday reportedly recorded his statement with regard to the alleged transfer of over Rs1 billion from the accounts of JV Opel-225.
JV Opel was set up in 2011 and had its office on a property in Karachi owned by the Zardari Group. From 2011 to 2013, the company did not generate any revenue, yet it purchased major assets, agriculture lands, commercial and residential properties in Islamabad and Karachi, according to a joint investigation team (JIT) report.
The only amount it received, during this period, was Rs1.2 billion from its business partner, the real-estate firm, which, according to the JIT report, was not due to the Zardari Group.
The investigators suspect that this payment was made by the real-estate company as a bribe or kickback for getting favours from the Sindh government in the form of illegal allotment of state land.
While the JIT has not been able to make a direct link between the Bhutto scion and the fake accounts, it states that money stashed in these fictitious bank accounts was used to pay the water and sewerage bill of the Bilawal House; an amount to a restaurant that catered an event; to purchase air tickets for Bilawal and his younger sister; and to renovate his bomb-proof container and bullet-proof vehicles.