The Bilawal-PPP binary

Source:  The News Published in Politics on Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, the founder of the PPP and the most popular ever politician of Pakistan, once said that if he was assassinated, his ghost would return to replace him to govern this country one day.

One cannot say with certainty whether or not his ghost has ever been in Pakistan after his death but the ghost of his political party got the unique opportunity to rule this country for a full five years.

Unfortunately, both Benazir Bhutto and the PPP met their ultimate fate together in Liaquat Bagh, Rawalpindi. After the demise of the PPP, the ghost of this party was in power in Pakistan after the 2008 general elections. As ghosts are generally believed to be terrifying creatures, so was the five-year rule of the PPP in the country.

The ‘right to rule’ devolved upon Asif Ali Zardari and Bilawal Bhutto Zardari jointly in accordance with the testamentary will made by the deceased chairperson of the PPP in 2007. The son was nominated as the chairman, and the father took over the party as its co-chairman. Under the leadership of Asif Ali Zardari, the PPP government successfully managed to complete its five-year tenure following the 2008 general elections.

During this period, the very doctrine of ‘political trinity’ was evolved and extensively propagated by various party stalwarts. It was maintained that there was a sort of ‘unity of being’ vis-à-vis the three distinct entities: the father, the son, and the PPP. Proponents of this doctrine have always rejected any kind of disharmony among the three components of this trinity.

The sudden death of Benazir Bhutto opened a sort of window of opportunity to both father and son. However, this opportunity somehow turned into political opportunism following the 2008 general elections. During the five-year rule of the PPP, many believed the party ignored the party manifesto and political ideals set forth by its founder.

Strangely, having buried the political ideology and legacy of ZA Bhutto, the party tries to resurrect the personality of its founder all the time. Now, in the absence of any significant political agenda for the masses, the Bhutto family graveyard in Gharhi Khuda Bakhsh has become the most frequently employed tool to mobilise the general public for political support.

By raising the slogan of ‘Pakistan Khappay’, Asif Ali Zardari made a popular entry into politics following the assassination of Benazir Bhutto in 2007. However, he became quite unpopular as soon as he decided to assume the office of presidency after the 2008 general elections. Some political analysts believe that Zardari should have followed the so-called Sonia Gandhi Model by only leading a political party instead of becoming an active part of government. The five-year rule of Asif Zardari also badly damaged the long-term political prospects of the PPP.

The PPP’s last government has been one of the most unpopular political regimes in Pakistan. Mismanagement, lack of transparency, and administrative inefficiency became the hallmark of that government. In the name of ‘politics of reconciliation’, unique traditions of political expediency and opportunism were introduced. The then chairman NAB also revealed some shocking facts about the state of corruption in the country.

Stories of corruption and plunder of the national exchequer have been surfacing one after the other. Economic mismanagement also touched its highest point during the PPP government’s time. Despite replacing five finance ministers and four governors of the SBP one after the other in five years, the party miserably failed to deliver anything of significance to the general masses. Sycophants and opportunists succeeded in securing key posts while loyal party workers and leaders were either ignored or sidelined altogether.

Now some of these party leaders, like Zulfiqar Mirza, are openly criticising the party’s leadership and its policies.

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari also formally marked his entry into politics by making aggressive speeches against his political opponents. He has also been active in promoting Sindhi culture. But he has, suddenly and mysteriously, disappeared from the political scene. There are rumours about political differences between the father and the son.

It is a great tragedy that the party whose founder used to talk about ‘Pan-Islamism’ has now psychologically confined itself to Sindhi nationalism. It has chosen an octogenarian chief minster to run the affairs of the province of Sindh. From the deteriorating law and order situation in Karachi to the famine in Thar, there is a stockpile of unresolved public issues in this province. Ironically, democracy continues to be the ‘best revenge’ that is being taken from the unfortunate people of Sindh.

Bilawal Bhutto has to do something substantial to revive his political party in Pakistan. He should focus on the ideology of the founding father of the party rather than his legacy. Instead of basking in the glorious past of the party, he has to devise some pragmatic plans for the future. Only a new Bilawal-PPP binary can find some space on the national political horizon of the country.

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Written by Mohsin Raza Malik

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