Appealing for the release of Dr Asim Hussain, Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari on Saturday said the PPP loyalist should not be treated like a Lal Masjid Taliban.
He was talking to reporters after his visit with Dr Hussain, who doctors say suffered a transient ischemic attack (TIA) Friday night in the ‘sub-jail’ of the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre (JPMC).
“Dr. Hussain had twin grandchildren while he was in the hospital and he did not know about it,” the chairperson said. He was seen standing beside Zarin Hussain, wife of Dr. Hussain, who he said is fighting breast cancer.
“Dr Hussain has suffered a severe medical attack yesterday. The tests that are required to ensure no harm will come to this individual are not available in Pakistan,” the chairman said.
The chairman said that Dr Hussain is a “political prisoner” of the Nawaz Sharif’s government, adding that, the prime minister is “exploiting the NAP to weaken and intimidate his opposition.”
Hospital officials had said doctors took him for an emergency check-up where his MRI and CT scan tests were conducted.
“Dr Hussain is currently under observation,” doctors had said. They added that the attack might be the result of high blood pressure and excessive stress. The doctors advised him for complete rest.
Dr Hussain is a close aide of former president Asif Ali Zardari. While Dr Hussain does not hold any formal office in the party, he is said to have wielded enormous influence with Mr Zardari when the latter was the country’s president.
After three-month preventive detention the paramilitary force handed him over to police in a case pertaining to sheltering and treating alleged terrorists at his hospitals.
“It was Dr. Asim Hussain’s political party, the PPP, that was the first voice in this country against extremism,” Bilawal said.
“Instead of seeing the Taliban behind bars, the good Taliban or the bad Taliban, the facilitators, the financiers, we see Dr Hussain of PPP behind bars, we see the mayor of Karachi behind bars,” he said, asking “What message are you sending to the world?”
Bilawal was hitting out at the National Action Plan (NAP) that he said is being implemented arbitrarily in the country and seems only to be operating in Karachi.
The chairman said he is a victim of terrorism having lost his mother to the cause, adding, “Nawaz Sharif owes me an explanation. Are we or are we not fighting terrorism?”
“I believe the NAP is a good idea. It is the first time this country’s civil and military leadership has come to the same page and formed a strategy to deal with extremism,” Bilawal said.
However, the chairman added that while the armed forces have fulfilled their role in the NAP, they are just one element of the counter-extremism strategy. “Not a single other point has been implemented by our third-time Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif,” he said.
He announced that he will consult with the senior leaders of his party if, given the situation, they can continue to support the NAP.
Dr Hussain faces charges of misusing his authority for getting plots allotted fraudulently and encroaching upon state land for expansion of Dr Ziauddin Hospital.
He has also been accused of money laundering, illegal gains, kickbacks, commission through fertiliser cartel for illegal curtailment of gas for exploitative price hike and defrauding people in the name of the charity hospital.