A testing political journey awaits Bilawal Bhutto Zardari
By Muhammad Akram
LAHORE: Pakistan People’s Party, the largest and oldest political party of the country, gets its new leader, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, in a perennial sub-continental tradition at a time when 33-year-old Afghan conflict is entering its decisive phase and a general election’s coming up, and this will determine internal and geopolitical positioning of the country.
Bilwal Bhutto Zardari’s debut speech was particularly reminiscent of her mother’s last few speeches that she made before being assassinated by terrorists on December 27, 2007, in Rawalpindi, wherein she was more concerned about the people of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa taken hostage by the forces of dark and an uncertain policy of the security establishment of the time.
The new PPP chairman is likely to see through a now a 33-year-old conflict on the western borders of the country that ensued during the last years of his maternal grandfather’s days in power and is said to be the reason of his judicial murder as part of the greater agenda for this hapless part of the world. The Afghan conflict has not just tattered the PPP as a political body with the removal from scene first of its founding chairman, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, and later on Benazir Bhutto, but has also destroyed the socio-political fabric of a progressive polity.
While mentioning in his speech the recent assassination of Awami National Party’s leader Bashir Ahmed Bilour was reflective of PPP’s determination in the ongoing war hand in hand with those who are facing most of the brunt of this war, the bravery of Malala Yousufzai was most special as far as looking at the desire for building a plural and progressive Pakistan. Bilawal Bhutto Zaradri’s mention of other state institutions in his address to a gathering of mourners on fifth death anniversary of her mother was not just deliberate but an expression without mincing of words about the discrimination his party has been made to witness since its inception.
He appeared to be mindful of the fact that country’s security establishment and judiciary, being conservative in nature, had in fact been the real sources of rampant poverty, ignorance and backwardness. Appeared to be at loss at the moment as how his party could change the fate of the people, there appeared a realisation to this effect only in the formation of a plural society that he was eying through the oft-repeated slogan of “democracy is the best revenge”.
As goes the determination of his father, President Asif Ali Zardari and co-chairman of the PPP, in salvaging the country and its polity from old and new threats, the same appeared to be lay in successful holding of general elections and a subsequent democratic transition. As far as President Zaradri’s mention of a much-talked about conspiracy to derail the system and democratic process, his mention of Egyptian political model, let alone the already in debate Bangladesh Model or Italian Model, appeared to be a hint at the challenge posed to the polity most recently by self-styled Maulana Dr Tahirul Qadri.
He appeared to have taken very seriously the challenge posed to the polity and the much-desired democratic transition by the parachuted Maulana, hence mention of Egyptian Model as the same has resulted in taking away fundamental rights of the people with the imposition of a theocratic government in the garb of democracy. His mention in the same breath of a consensus caretaker prime minister with no agenda of his own appeared to be the most important task he had in hands prior to calling the next general elections, that are only couple of months away.
His no mention of the so-called ‘pro-active’ judiciary in a speech close to a general election appeared not just deliberate but inquisitive too, as no words has so far come from this constitutional institution on the development that has brought with him the parachuted character from nowhere. However, to him and his PPP, the way the main opposition PML-N has taken to task the parachuted Maulana and his so-called agenda to purge electoral system of anomalies was nothing short of timely breather, particularly at a moment when allies like the MQM appear to be ready to jump Minhajul Quran bandwagon and opponents like the PTI are only weighing their options to the challenge.
In this context the taking to the task by President Zardari of Nawaz Sharif with reference to the Asghar Khan case appeared to be keeping the latter the targeted opposition of the former. This is particularly due to a very confused political atmosphere ahead of general elections where the real stakeholders of the democratic transition are suspecting any other political party/pressure group as a political franchise of the powerful security and intelligence establishment.
The fifth death anniversary of Benazir Bhutto not just marked the launch of Bilawal Bhutto Zardari in politics but also the election campaign of the PPP in an environment as politically threatening to it as in 2007. The only reprieve it appeared to have now was a determined PML-N seeking elections as the only source of nation’s salvation unlike 2007 when it was in the camps of those hell-bent on boycotting the largest democratic exercise of elections.
The PPP would be much pleased to have the PML-N – the ruling party in Punjab – on its side in case the parachuted character pursued his announced spoil-the-election and democratic transition agenda. On the previous such occasion, the ruling PPP was all alone and hence failed to defuse the long march undertaken by the PML-N said to be in a state of frustration not only because governor’s rule was imposed in Punjab but also after seeing positive signals from the establishment.
The PPP and the PML-N, the real stakeholders in the continuation of system, are said to be on the same page not just on the caretaker setup but also to thwart all political and apolitical moves aimed at derailment of the system. In view of those close to the negotiations being held between the two sides, they were not just cognisant of the prevalent political challenges but also closing in agreeing on fundamental challenges even after elections irrespective of which party come to power.