Will the son also rise?
[Dawn] TALL and handsome, he resembles his illustrious grandfather. His voice evokes the memory of his courageous mother who gave her life fighting for the people's rights. But for 24-year-old Bilawal
Baby Bhutto Zardari
...Pak dynastic politician, son of Benazir Bhutto and grandon of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. As far as is known, Bilawal has no particular talents other than being pretty and being able to memorize political slogans, but he had the good luck to be born into the right family and he hasn't been assassinated yet...
the mantle of leadership of the country's most powerful political dynasty may have come too soon.
Just out of university and with little connection to the realities at home, Bilawal is now required to salvage the falling support base of the Pakistain People's Party and lead it in the coming elections for a second term in office. An extremely arduous undertaking indeed for the young man thrust onto the political centre stage by the compulsions of dynastic politics. Can he deliver?
Unlike his mother Benazir Bhutto
... 11th Prime Minister of Pakistain in two non-consecutive terms from 1988 until 1990 and 1993 until 1996. She was the daughter of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, founder of the Pakistain People's Party, who was murdered at the instigation of General Ayub Khan. She was murdered in her turn by person or persons unknown while campaigning in late 2007. Suspects include, to note just a few, Baitullah Mehsud, General Pervez Musharraf, the ISI, al-Qaeda in Pakistain, and her husband, Asif Ali Zardari, who shows remarkably little curiosity about who done her in...
, whose political baptism took place fighting military dictatorship and years of solitary confinement, Bilawal was anointed more in the manner of the investiture of an heir apparent. His speech was certainly well-tutored and well-rehearsed. But, despite its fiery
...a single two-syllable word carrying connotations of both incoherence and viciousness. A fiery delivery implies an audience of rubes and yokels, preferably forming up into a mob...
rhetoric, it failed to make a connection with party devotees who had thronged to the dusty field in front of the white marble mausoleum of his martyred mother and grandfather.
It was all about victimhood and alleged conspiracies against the government and less about what the party stands for. For a party that has been in power for the last five years, such rhetoric may not work to motivate the people on the eve of elections.
The sympathy wave in the aftermath of the liquidation of Benazir Bhutto already catapulted the party to power, and the victimhood card may not be effective again. It is what the party has done during the five years in power that really matters to the people.
Dynastic rule has dominated our politics for decades, but the elevation of Bilawal at such a young age to head the country's largest party is unprecedented. He was chosen chairman of the PPP when just a teenager and barely out of school. It was indeed a decision taken for him and not by him. His nomination may have been dictated by the compulsion of maintaining party unity after the liquidation of Benazir Bhutto and a sense of entitlement.
It was also to provide legitimacy to Asif Ali Zardari's assuming the party's leadership that cleared the way for his election later as the country's president. The third generation heir to the dynasty was placed under the tutelage of his father who is better known for political wheeling and dealing than for popular mass politics which has been the hallmark of the Bhuttos.
Over the next five years, Bilawal stayed in Britannia finishing his studies at Oxford University completely insulated from Pak society. During his visits home, his activities remained restricted to the confines of the President House where he would meet party leaders and senior government officials calling on him.
It appeared surreal when elderly party stalwarts who had spent the greater part of their lives fighting for democracy were seen taking instructions from the young 'prince'. What is most pitiable, however, is that this happened in the party which claims to be the most progressive political force in the country. This is what is often described as 'democracy feudal style'.
Bilawal's unelected position has not prevented President Zardari from seating his son beside himself in summit conferences and in important meetings with heads of states, in breach of all diplomatic norms. It is certainly not the kind of training the young man needed as he prepared to take his position on the centre stage of democratic politics. Such practice is unprecedented even in the dynastic political tradition prevalent in the region. This only happens in a monarchy or under a dictatorship and is certainly not expected in a democratic system.
Bilawal will be leading a party completely different from that founded by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto
...9th PM of Pakistain from 1973 to 1977, and 4th President of Pakistain from 1971 to 1973. He was the founder of the Pakistain Peoples Party (PPP). His eldest daughter, Benazir Bhutto, would also serve as hereditary PM. In a coup led by General Zia-ul-Haq, Bhutto was removed from office and was executed in 1979 for authorizing the murder of a political opponent...
some 45 years ago or inherited by Benazir after 1981. It was a party for change and not a party of status quo as today.
A part of its ethos may still be more progressive compared to others, but it has increasingly degenerated into a family-dominated, rural-based party losing its support among the urban poor and middle classes which once formed the party's backbone. It is now being run as a family fiefdom as its traditional mass appeal has been increasingly shrinking.
Five years in power have exposed the party's ineptitude to provide good governance. Cronyism is at its height, and corruption has never been so endemic. The economy is in a shambles with the growth rate hovering around an abysmal three per cent for five consecutive years. Power cuts and shortage of energy have not only hit industries, but also affected lives of the common people triggering widespread discontent.
It is the first time in Pakistain's history that a democratically elected government will be completing its full term and hopefully power will be transferred to the next elected government. The party will go into elections this time not on slogans for change, but defending its not so enviable record while in government.
There seems to be a marked change in the party's election strategy with far greater reliance on the local influential families than on traditional party supporters. That has hugely transformed the party's character stripping it of whatever ideological colour it had left. Some of the leaders who sat on the dais in Garhi Khuda Bakhsh spoke volumes for the changing face of the party under Zardari.
Although he is still not 25, the lower age limit to stand in elections, Bilawal is expected to spearhead the PPP's campaign with his father in the background. It is undoubtedly going to be the toughest in the party's history. But can he stir up the Bhutto charisma and galvanise the demoralised party voters? Will the voters warm up to the new Bhutto? This is going to be tough for an inexperienced and untested new heir to the Bhutto dynasty. For sure the party cannot rely on any sympathy wave this time.
Posted by: Fred 2013-01-02