En­fant Ter­ri­ble?

Southasia - - CONTENTS - The writer is a se­nior po­lit­i­cal an­a­lyst and for­mer ed­i­tor of Southasia Mag­a­zine.

On Oc­to­ber 18, on the sev­enth an­niver­sary of the bomb at­tack on Be­nazir Bhutto’s cav­al­cade in Karachi, Bi­lawal Zar­dari was for­mally ‘launched’ un­der the brand name of ‘Bhutto’ be­fore a mam­moth crowd at the Bagh-e-Jin­nah ground ad­join­ing the Quaid-e-Azam’s mau­soleum. The city had been awash with hoard­ings and graf­fiti for about a month in ad­vance, call­ing peo­ple to the ‘his­toric’ ad­dress by Bi­lawal. Though Karachi it­self boasts a pop­u­la­tion of 25 mil­lion, yet hun­dreds of thou­sands of peo­ple from in­te­rior Sindh availed the treat of a free ride to the mega city by ‘50,000 two-wheel­ers and 3.000 buses’, while two train­loads of peo­ple were im­ported from Pun­jab.

For se­cu­rity, 500 con­tain­ers, over 15000 Rangers and po­lice per­son­nel and 3000 PPP work­ers were de­ployed in ad­di­tion to 150 per­sonal body­guards. There were also women se­cu­rity guards in attendance. Ev­ery en­trant was body searched. The Sindh gov­ern­ment de­clared a hol­i­day us­ing Ab­dul­lah Shah Ghazi’s an­niver­sary as a pre­text while the busi­ness­men an­nounced that they’d keep their busi­nesses closed for the day.

As claimed by the PPP, the show was un­prece­dented in the his­tory of the sub­con­ti­nent be­cause such elab­o­rate se­cu­rity ar­range­ments had never been made for any po­lit­i­cal leader, in­clud­ing Ma­hatma Gandhi, Jawa­har­lal Nehru, Quaid-e-Azam or Sheikh Mu­jibur Rah­man. Even Im­ran Khan and Tahirul Qadri move about in milling crowds with­out se­cu­rity and peo­ple are not fer­ried from dis­tant places to at­tend their

meet­ings.

Bi­lawal flew by he­li­copter from Bi­lawal House to the venue. Amidst such tight se­cu­rity he au­da­ciously as­serted that he was not afraid of sui­cide bombers.

The me­dia went crazy about the new leader, pick­ing up his ev­ery word, hyp­ing it up to the high heavens. Dawn de­clared: “Bi­lawal spells out bold agenda for PPP.” But the bold agenda com­prised only hosan­nas for his mother and nana and barbs at his po­lit­i­cal ri­vals, Nawaz Sharif, Im­ran Khan, Tahirul Qadri and Altaf Hus­sain, as well as at the ju­di­ciary. The only in­sti­tu­tion he spared was the armed forces.

There was no agenda for the party and no mes­sage for the masses. He did not touch upon any is­sue that af­fects them. He sparked no hopes such as ZAB had done with his slo­gan of ‘roti,

kapra aur makan’. In con­trast, Im­ran Khan speaks about azadi (free­dom) and a new Pak­istan, paint­ing a rather glo­ri­ous pic­ture be­fore his au­di­ence, while Qadri spelled out a 10-point agenda at his pub­lic meet­ing just a day after Bi­lawal at the Mi­nar-e-Pak­istan.

Bi­lawal only applauded Bhut­to­ism, by which he meant democ­racy, even though there is no democ­racy within his party of which he, as an un­elected chair­man, is a glar­ing ex­am­ple. He also talked about his mother’s ‘mis­sion’ and vowed to carry it for­ward. But what her mis­sion was has never been spelled out.

Dur­ing her two terms as prime min­is­ter, there was hardly any pos­i­tive de­vel­op­ment in any sec­tor. Her first ten­ure was marked by sky­rock­et­ing cor­rup­tion, with her hus­band ac­quir­ing the so­bri­quet of ‘Mr. 10 Per­cent’ and her fa­ther in-law, a mod­est land­holder, buy­ing a manor in Nor­mandy which, ac­cord­ing to a New York Times re­port, stands in the name of Hakim and Zar­rin Zar­dari. Her sec­ond term saw the bru­tal mur­der of her only liv­ing brother Mur­taza Bhutto.

Bi­lawal ap­plauds democ­racy, even though there is no democ­racy within his party of which he, as an un­elected chair­man, is a glar­ing ex­am­ple

By S.G. Ji­la­nee

Im­ran Khan dis­missed Bi­lawal Zar­dari’s speech, say­ing he would not re­spond to a “child.” But when Bi­lawal as­serted, “I am a Bhutto,” Khan re­marked that an ass could not be­come a ze­bra by draw­ing lines on it body.

The PPP chair­man’s most acer­bic re­marks were, how­ever, re­served for the MQM. He squarely blamed the MQM for ru­in­ing Karachi. Ear­lier, he had asked MQM Chief Altaf Hus­sain to rein in his men, threat­en­ing that “else, we shall make their life dif­fi­cult.” Re­act­ing to Bi­lawal’s ful­mi­na­tions, the MQM an­nounced its decision to pull out of the coali­tion gov­ern­ment in Sindh.

Ear­lier, Bi­lawal had in­vited trou­ble by call­ing Tahirul Qadri a “car­toon.” When the lat­ter served him with a le­gal no­tice of a defama­tion suit, there was ker­fuf­fle in the PPP camp. Raja Pervez Ashraf re­port­edly rushed to Qadri with the gift of a camel for Eidul Azha to pla­cate him while Rah­man Ma­lik tried to soothe his nerves with apolo­gies.

Trou­ble seems to have started from the very in­au­gu­ral of the young chair­man. This is an omi­nous sign and would need con­certed ef­forts at dam­age con­trol. He has a long way to go for which he is to­tally un­equipped. He has no met­tle, no achieve­ment in any field and not even charisma. That is why he has dis­carded his iden­ti­fi­ca­tion as a Zar­dari and bor­rowed the Bhutto name for a shine, which be­trays his lack of self-con­fi­dence. Add to this the la­bel of ‘Mr. 10 Per­cent’ at­tached to his fa­ther’s name.

This is quite a heavy bag­gage that threat­ens to im­pede Bi­lawal’s po­lit­i­cal jour­ney. Be­sides, it is widely be­lieved that he plays no ac­tive role in the party’s decision-mak­ing. Those roles are played by his fa­ther and Faryal Talpur - his fa­ther’s sis­ter. If Bi­lawal re­ally in­tends to lead the party, he must shed this bag­gage. He must walk out of the shadow of his fa­ther and aunt and prove his met­tle.

Acolytes pin high hopes on the young man. Writ­ing in Dawn, one an­a­lyst spec­u­lates that “Bi­lawal’s move in Pun­jab will give life to the di­min­ish­ing Left and also al­low Pun­jab, and in ex­ten­sion, the whole coun­try to have a more vi­brant and plu­ral­is­tic po­lit­i­cal land­scape.” Yet even he doubts that Bi­lawal's foray into Pun­jab and his in­ter­ac­tion with the peo­ple of South Pun­jab was not a stage man­aged photo op. The writer even re­minds Bi­lawal that “in Sindh, un­der the PPP gov­ern­ment, de­vel­op­ment has been dis­mal; that some­times, up to 80 per­cent of de­vel­op­ment funds are dis­trib­uted among the cor­rupt bu­reau­crats, politi­cians and con­trac­tors; that even the re­main­ing 20 per­cent funds, at times, are mis­used to sat­isfy a stake­holder in some form and shape.”

In Pun­jab, Bi­lawal made a sym­bolic ap­pear­ance dur­ing the floods. He was well-re­ceived by the peo­ple per­haps be­cause he was a new face. They had seen enough of the Sharif Brothers and they had booed them.

But one swal­low does not a sum­mer make. The chal­lenges are too many and too great. There is sim­mer­ing dis­con­tent within the party in Pun­jab. Very re­cently Asif Zar­dari had to leave a party meet­ing in La­hore amidst slo­gans against Pervez Ashraf and Man­zoor Wat­too. In fact, how bad things are within the PPP in Pun­jab was demon­strated by the to­tal rout of its can­di­date who lost even his se­cu­rity de­posit in the NA-149 by-elec­tion in Multan.

In the po­lit­i­cal arena, Bi­lawal faces a more for­mi­da­ble chal­lenge from the PTI than the PML (N). Im­ran Khan pulls mam­moth crowds with­out any ef­fort by sim­ply an­nounc­ing a date and a venue for a jalsa. Even Qadri re­ceives spon­ta­neous wel­come from a mass of peo­ple and is show­ered with rose petals.

Th­ese sce­nar­ios should give PPP’s chair­man some food for thought. Bad­mouthing ri­vals and us­ing the Bhutto name would avail noth­ing. The mar­tyr­dom card has also lost its ap­peal. He will have to find some in­no­va­tive way to meet the chal­lenge. Is he up to the task?

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