By Saeed Qureshi
It looks improbable for the juvenile Bilawal Bhutto Zardari (now 27) to revive and resuscitate the moribund, discredited and hugely mauled Pakistan People’s Party of which he is the current chairman. His father Asif Ali Zardari is the co-chairperson of the party.
Bilawal Zardari Bhutto took the reins of the PPP on December 30, 2007. Someone earnestly apprise me of his meager part in bolstering the distorted and blemished image of Pakistan People Party. Also please do me a favor of pointing out his initiatives and vision, his goals and policies to rediscover Pakistan and infuse new spirit into party’s rustic rank and file.
Not to speak of restructuring his defamed and declining party and unleashing a visionary manifesto for the uplift of Pakistan, he seems to be totally oblivious of the ground realities and lacks even basic awareness of the national issues. His demeanor is docile. His public utterances are incoherent, interspersed with odd and occasional uncalled for outbursts. In short he doesn’t have the basic ingredients` of a political leader.
If the Pakistan People’s party is the party of masses and the People then it should discard the tradition of having dynastic chairman or the president from the Bhutto family. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto the founder of the party could remain the boss of the PPP as long as he wanted to be. His succession by his wife and later by his daughter Benazir Bhutto was done in affection and as a token of alliance with the Bhutto family. But to keep the presidency of the party within Bhutto clan is outright negation of the manifesto and ideology for which this party was founded.
Through a political process and with a shady profile Asif Ali Zardari could have never become the chairman of PPP. Benazir Bhutto the daughter of illustrious Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and a political stalwart was assassinated in Rawalpindi on 27 December 2007 in mysterious circumstances. According to her dubious Will (whose only page has been made public), Zardari assumed the co-chairmanship of PPP on 30 December 2007 with Bilawal Bhutto as the chairman. Later he also ascended to the highest office of the president of Pakistan. Mr. Zardari played his cards smartly well both as the de-facto head or chairperson of the PPP (December 2007 to the present) as well as the president of Pakistan (2008-2013).
Asif Ali Zardari carries around his neck the lasting millstone of incomparable corruption and indelible obsessive lust for making and hoarding money through every foul and sleazy mean. As a matter of fact Zardari is not from the bloodline of Bhutto family. Due to peculiar circumstances resulting from the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, his rise to the political pinnacle of Pakistan and assumption of the party’s leadership was rather ignored.
While purposely abdicating the party leadership, Zardari donned it on the head of a young boy who lacked maturity and experience which comes over a period of time and by going through the grueling political process. By keeping Bilawal on the front, Zardari has been busy in massing wealth all these years.
The bare fact is that Bilawal Bhutto doesn’t have the grit, the making, style or the demeanor to serve as a political leader. We have seen that he spent the period of his adolescence for pretty long time in London and Dubai (April 1999-December-2011 with short visits to Pakistan in between)) studying and having a glamorous and flamboyant life at the same time. The startling details of his fun-laden lifestyle abroad are available on social media and in certain books.
He made a major public speech on 27 December 2012 on the fifth death anniversary of his late mother, Benazir Bhutto. Yethis political career actually started on 18 October 2014 by addressing a mass rally in Karachi. Thereafter he seems to have gone in hibernation.
Bilawal looks more like the type of a young darling lad of his party and precious scion of Bhutto clan. Yet it would be erroneous to claim that he can provide a dynamic, revolutionary, rejuvenating and sterling leadership to PPP. Why not seasoned people like Khurshid Shah and Amin Fahim, Mian Raza Rabbani and similar other senior party leaders are given the reins of this powerful political party of yester years.
These guys have gone through the political mill, spent their entire lives in serving the party and have suffered enormously on that count. Their loyalty to the party is unswerving and uncompromising. They might go ahead in improving partially or wholly the sullied image of PPP and bring it back to its pristine glory and revolutionary track, infuse a new spirit in order to serve the people with a renewed dynamism and dedication.
In the hindsight, I remember the tumultuous period following the signing of the Tashkent Peace agreement after the 1965 war between India and Pakistan: the two neighboring yet perennially hostile countries. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto the young and robust foreign minister of president Ayub Khan parted company with him to launch a political movement under the banner of Pakistan People’s Party. He accused president Ayub of conceding Pakistan’s national interests in the Tashkent Declaration signed on 10 January 1966.
Bhutto’s oratorical skills and promise for a new people’s Pakistan carried through a nationwide movement resulted in the ouster of Ayub Khan in March 1969 and replacement by a morally degenerate Army chief general Yahya Khan as the president of Pakistan.
Following the cessation of East Pakistan in 1971, General Yahya Khan transferred Power to ZAB on 20 December 1971 because of electoral victory of his party in 1970 general elections in West Pakistan which was now the left over Pakistan. It took six years (1965-1971) for Bhutto to become the president of Pakistan.
Notwithstanding Bhutto’s insatiable lust for power and his role in the separation of East Pakistan and Pakistan army’s disastrous deployment in the former East Pakistan and India military intervention, the fact remains that Bhutto had the inimitable talent of a great leader as an orator, a political maverick and an astute strategist. His achievements after assuming power are varied and monumental. One of such achievements was to restore the battered confidence of the people of Pakistan after the cessation of East Pakistan and Pakistan army’s surrender to the Indian army.
Now compare ZAB with the incumbent chairman of the PPP Bilawal Zardari Bhutto and also with the co-chairperson of the PPP Asif Ali Zardari. One tends to acknowledge that while ZAB founded and harnessed the PPP into a formidable political force that knocked down a powerful military ruler of Pakistan; his successors have debased this party with stigma of corruption, misuse of power, money grabbing and a host of serious crimes.
The writer is a senior journalist, former editor of Diplomatic Times and a former diplomat.This and other articles by the writer can also be read at his blog Upright Opinion.