Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Why Bilawal Bhutto: why not A senior member of PPP?

August 21, 2016

By Saeed Qureshi

The political parties in Pakistan are like family fiefdoms that keep ruling and delving in politics and power as long as they can hold on. There are scores of political parties in Pakistan and it is seldom that they are headed or presided over by someone who was not from the founders’ clan.

It is perhaps in Pakistan, besides some other odd countries, where the political parties remain under the tutelage of the families which create political parties. In Pakistan the tradition of electing the head of a political party has been invariably nonexistent. Even if the elections within the parties are held a person from the family of the founders wins. There could be exceptions as in case of Jamaat-e-Islami or the Awami National Party.

 Presently there are six main political parties in Pakistan. Besides there are 31 regional or minor parties. These five main political parties are PML(N), PTI (Imran Khan), PPP (Bilawal Bhutto), Awami National Party (Asfandyar Wali Khan) and Pakistan Awami Tehrik (Muhammad Tahirul Qadri). All these are being run by the founder or the family of the founders. It shows that these parties don’t hold party elections to elect a more senior or deserving person if not related to the founder or his clan.

Perhaps such a paradigm is kept intact because the clout of the founder or their family matters a lot in mobilizing and keeping the people loyal to the respective parties. But elsewhere in the world the presidents or chairpersons are elected after s specified period of time. In India after the partition although the family of Nehru lorded over the Congress for a longer period but there have been other politicians who became presidents.

With this background over the formation and functioning of the political parties, let us specifically focus on the PPP and the way it remained under the Bhutto family ever since it was founded in 1967. It is one party that has a president as well as a Chairman. This kind of duality is seldom seen in regards to political parties except during the time of dynastic regimes with the king being minor.

Now obviously Bilawal Bhutto is too naive, young and inexperienced to preside over a grand party like PPP. He has been nominated by his father Asif Zardari who as president is the de-facto head of PPP. Simultaneously Bilawal Bhutto has been hoisted as the Chairman of the Pakistan People Party. In my opinion it is not because of Bilawal’s merit, experience or outstanding political vision or that without whose chairmanship the PPP would politically suffer.

We all know that this prestigious portfolio has been conferred on him by his father who is calling shots and making decisions while sitting abroad.  Here is a Trojan horse that would run for the backdoor rider Jinab Asif Ali Zardari.

The PPP has seasoned and dedicated members who are decidedly in better positions and possess more merit and experience to lead the party. After all it is the party of the people and it would be befitting if a common worker or senior member is appointed and elected as its president. That situation would heighten the prestige of the party and make it look more people and merit-oriented.

From among the many factions of the Muslim League, it is the Pakistan Muslim League(N) ruling the roost since 2008 with Nawaz Sharif as its president and who is also the prime minister of Pakistan. Earlier Nawaz Sharif was prime minister for two terms (total period 5 years) and also the PML president. The PML(N) was founded by the military dictator Ziaul Haq in 1985.  

The Awami national Party founded by Abdul Wali Khan in 1986 had brief stints as presidents by

 Ajmal Khattack (1991-1999) and Ehsan Wyne (2002-2003). For the remaining periods it remained under the tutelage of either Wali Khan or his son Asfandyar Wali Khan. Ever since the formation of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (F) in 1988 Maulana Fazal-ur-Rehman has remained its president.

There has been no tradition of choosing or electing the head of the PPP from among the outsiders of the Bhutto family. It is patently a dynastic paradigm that negates and cuts across the underlying objective of political parties to promote democratic traditions and culture in Pakistan.

Let us start with Zulfikar Ali Bhutto who remained chairman of the PPP from November 1967 till his untimely and unfortunate death in 1977. His daughter Benazir Bhutto and wife Nusrat Bhutto became successors to run the party. When Benazir Bhutto died in a terrorist attack on December 30, 2007, only one page of her will was revealed. In that she appointed her spouse Asif Ali Zardari as her successor in the event of any tragedy to her by way of incarceration or demise.

On the basis of that will Asif Ali Zardari assumed the position of the co-chairman or president of the party continuing since December 30, 2007 to the present. Bilawal Bhutto was appointed chairman of the PPP on the same date and his name was changed from Bilawal Bhutto to Bilawal Bhutto Zardari. He was merely 17 years old then. Understandably, Mr. Zardari was the de-facto chairman making all the decisions.

Now let us have a look at the merits of Bilawal Bhutto in spearheading a party that at one point was a formidable political force to the extent that it was able to oust a powerful military head of state Filed Marshal Ayub Khan. It had remained in the power corridors as robust political force for many years until general Zia’s military coup staged on July 5, 1977.

We all have seen that Bilawal is not well versed with the political and social culture of Pakistan. Patently he is inexperienced and indeed a novice in countering the other parties and addressing public meetings as seasoned politicians or for that matter his grandfather and illustrious mother have been doing.

Since period of his schooling and education was spent in England, his tone and speech are tainted with British accent and pronunciation. He has to speak from a written text with great difficulty which in fact is a drawback for a politician who has to move and infuse the audience.

He is still living under the wings of his father like the old dynastic periods when a juvenile king was ensconced by his advisors. Even if he comes of political ripe age, his tone and worldview may not change as he has been aloof with the local life and grassroots culture and living paradigms of Pakistan. But he has been patently kept in the saddle of PPP as the chairman for being the scion of the Bhutto family and to remain under the wings of his father Mr. Zardari: a political maverick in his own right.  

The way Bilawal roars unnecessarily in Public meetings and sometime missing the words and phrases make the whole political campaigning funny and rather bizarre. He has to read vernacular Urdu text written in English letters. By virtue of his inexperience and youthful exuberance he makes statements and utterances that would not be objective and realistic and are detached from the common jargon. One such recent statement that he made was to liberate Kashmir perceivably with Jihad.

 The life style of Bilawal during his stay in England whose glimpses we can see on the YouTube are quite glamorous and rightly so but which may not stand in good for a political head of a magnificent political party. I would dare allude to a book which paints the life of Bilawal spent abroad in most lurid colors. It is written by a female from Lahore. I seriously doubt and reject the contents of this sleazy book. However, it is there in the printed form. 

I would have wished and dreamt if a committed long time member and veteran leader from PPP cadres should have been offered or elected to lead the party. That would have given an indelible credibility and resurgence to PPP which has the guts to assail the political landscape of Pakistan once again. It could be a ceremonial office.

I would include in my list such stalwarts and dedicated members whose loyalty and commitment to PPP all along has been unflinching. Some of the names of such loyal and seasoned persons that I have in my mind include, Farooq Naek, Faryal Talpur, Fauzia Habib, Syed Khurshid Ahmed Shah, Fahmida Mirza, Makhdoom Shahabuddin, Aitzaz Ahsan, Yousaf Raza Gillani and Saifullah Paracha.

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 www.uprightopinion.com

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