Ex-president Zardari says willing to help government fix ailing economy

Ex-president Zardari says willing to help government fix ailing economy
In this June 10, 2019 file photo, former Pakistan president Asif Ali Zardari arrives for his bail appeal at Islamabad High Court. Zardari said on Thursday he was ready to extend a helping hand to the government to fix the country’s crumbling economy while demanding an end to what he called was selective and politically motivated accountability. (AFP)
Updated 20 June 2019

Ex-president Zardari says willing to help government fix ailing economy

Ex-president Zardari says willing to help government fix ailing economy
  • Addresses Pakistan’s National Assembly for first time since his arrest on money laundering charges on June 10
  • The federal budget is expected to be approved by parliament next week

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s former president Asif Ali Zardari on Thursday said he was ready to extend a helping hand to the government to fix the country’s crumbling economy while demanding an end to the victimization of his opposition Pakistan Peoples Party party through what he said was selective and politically motivated accountability.
Zardari, the widower of the assassinated former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, addressed the National Assembly for the first time after his arrest on money laundering charges by an anti-corruption watchdog on June 10.
“Let us sit together to talk about an economic policy,” the former president said on the floor of the house while the budget for fiscal year to June 2020 was being debated, adding that governments “keep changing, but let us make an economic policy that withstands all these changes.”
Participating in the budget debate, Zardari advised the government to “stop accountability” and move forward.
“My arrest doesn’t make any difference [to my party], but the average Pakistani is scared that if Mr. Zardari can be arrested, what will happen to him,” he said.
Reacting to Zardari’s statement, former finance minister of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party Asad Umar said accountability for political reasons was “neither good for the country nor for the person doing it.”
However, he added that it was the constitutional responsibility of parliament to hold criminals and corrupt elements accountable.
“If someone has stolen the country’s money, then there must be a system of reward and punishment for it. There is no politics in it,” Umar said.
Following a week of ruckus in the National Assembly, opposition parties and the government agreed on Wednesday not to disrupt the debate on the proposed federal budget presented by the PTI government on June 11.
“We completely reject this budget [which is like] a sword slitting the common man’s throat,” Shehbaz Sharif, leader of opposition in the National Assembly, said on Wednesday in a three-hour-long speech.
The federal budget is expected to be approved by the National Assembly next week.