September 28, 2017
By Saeed Qureshi
The political parties in Pakistan are like family fiefdoms that keep ruling and delving in the arena of 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.
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 five main political parties in Pakistan. Besides there are 31 regional or minor parties. These five main political parties are PML (Nawaz Sharif), 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 founders 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.
Let us specifically focus on PPP being run by Bilawal Bhutto as it Chairman. 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.
After Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, first his wife Nusrat Bhutto followed by his daughter Benazir 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 will she is stated to have appointed her spouse Asif Ali Zardari as her successor in the event of any tragedy to her by way of her incarceration or demise. The tragedy struck sooner than later.
On the basis of that dubious will Asif Ali Zardari assumed the position of the co-chairman or president of PPP continuing since December 30, 2007 to the present. Bilawal Bhutto was appointed as the Chairman of the PPP on the same date and his name was changed from Bilawal Bhutto to Bilawal Bhutto Zardari. He was then merely 17 years old. 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 has been a formidable political force until Benazir Bhutto as its Chairperson. 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 had been doing.
Not to speak of restructuring his 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 and interspersed with odd and occasional uncalled-for outbursts. In short, he doesn’t have the basic ingredients of a seasoned political leader.
He spent his early life as a student in England. He doesn’t know much of Urdu. As such 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 advisers. 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. 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 statement that he recently made was to liberate Kashmir perceptibly with Jihad.
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 the factual leader from behind the curtain. We all know that this prestigious portfolio has been conferred on him by his father who is calling shots and making decisions from behind.
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. 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.
If Pakistan People’s Party is the party of masses then it should discard the tradition of having dynastic Chairman or the president from the Bhutto family. 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.
This party has seasoned and dedicated members who are decidedly in better position and possess more merit and experience to lead the party. It would have been in order 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 it an indelible credibility and resurgence to PPP which has the guts to assail the political landscape of Pakistan once again.
Why not seasoned people like Khurshid Shah, 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, have been colleagues of ZA Bhutto, 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.
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, Syed Khurshid Ahmed Shah, Fahmida Mirza, Makhdoom Shahabuddin, Aitzaz Ahsan, Yousaf Raza Gillani and Saifullah Paracha.