Bilawal makes his mark
His heart warming performance at the Davos’ World Economic Forum with global icons has made the nation proud for having discovered an exceptional leader who stood tall among the tallest
It is a rare event in history when the destiny of an unborn child holds the future of a nation in its celestial trajectory. I can say this without fear of contradiction that here we have one individual — Bilawal Bhutto Zardari — earmarked by nature to play a larger role than life assuring him a unique niche in the hall of fame—what his critics call a dynastic approbation. Unfortunately, not many have thought of the fact that here was a child who the divinity had carved a role in politics and affairs of the state to play as the leader of the nation much before he was born.
In this context I would like to emphasize the role stars play in determining the future course in a nation or individual’s life. People who are associated with Pakistani politics would recall certain turn of events preceding general elections in November 1988. Among other happenings, one can co-relate it all to Geneva Accord on the Soviet withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan — a major decision taken by Prime Minister Muhammad Khan Junejo in consultation with PPP Chairperson Benazir Bhutto and other senior leaders. Ominous was the blowing up of the huge Ohjiri Arms Depot at Faizabad, appointment of General Aslam Beg as Vice Chief of Army Staff by Prime Minister Junejo without consulting President Ziaul Haq causing most serious divide in his constituency forcing him to dismiss the Prime Minister that he had himself chosen that finally led to the long knife of the generals resulting in the mysterious crash of C-130 on August 17, 1988.
General Ziaul Haq was so confident of his grip on power, hold on the army and ISI that he did not understand that time and tide wait for no one and that — as Roman philosopher Cicero said of such times as of before his death — that certain signs precede ominous events — instead of calling it day he preferred to buy extension by sacrificing black goats every week. I remember the group interview that he gave us two months before his divine fall from the sky reiterating boisterously that he would not give up his army uniform and would ‘die with his boots on’. How prophetic!
Benazir’s tumultuous return to Pakistan in April 1986 and the global environment opening floodgates of democratic change assured the inevitability of elections especially after Prime Minister Junejo’s dismissal. Zia being a wily usurper and sacred of Bhutto and landslide electoral victory waiting for her whenever polls were held. As such, he designed the polls to be held at such a time when she is pregnant. And as the incredible story goes, General Zia assigned ISI, MI and IB to find out when she was due for delivery so that health wise she is not in a position to carry out vigorous election campaign.
Bilawal is not the continuation of status quo politics like the PML-N and PTI leadership. Whenever an occasion demands a forthright stand against retrogressive forces and those representing the status quo — Bilawal has not hesitated to grab the bull by the horns
His timing of election was so aimed that her pregnancy could restrict her hectic movement precisely with the intention of keeping her campaign ineffective. Much to the machinations and planning by ISI apparatus, Bilawal was born earlier and the plans of deep state were thwarted. When I look back I feel amused to recall that how poorly our intelligence agencies perform. Whether Bilawal would like to share this story with a wild smile on his face or not, I fondly remember how our ‘dearest Bibi’ used to narrate instances of intelligence failure about her pregnancy and her being a graduate.
Many of his narrow-minded critics continue to be uncharitable in assessment of the enormous potential he has lately shown following his very pragmatic and objectively loaded sense of direction in December last at the time of the 50th foundation anniversary of the party. As he rightly said recently in his Davos speech and India Today interview that Pakistan needs a progressive voice to eliminate politics of hate and mudslinging by major political parties within the country and that PPP has always endorsed a progressive political framework, which he termed as ‘the way forward.’ “PPP has always been a progressive party in Pakistan. That’s the way forward. That’s the kind of politician I want to be.” Bilawal also said that his mother’s mission to serve the people of the motivated him to choose politics. “My mother was assassinated for opposing extremists. I did not choose a life in politics. It chose me.” Indeed, Bilawal also put to shame senior politicians and their lack of understanding of the art of diplomacy when he dilated about the relationship between India and Pakistan. His assertion that a one-way approach would not solve issues and that reservations of both the countries should be discussed in order to break the impasse through pragmatism and statesmanship. “India and the rest of the world think that they can just dictate Pakistan and that’s not how a partnership works or is built. We need to have a discussion over reservations of both countries with each other.”
BBZ is not the continuation of the politics of status quo like PML-N and PTI leadership. Whenever there is a grim reality of a situation, or an occasion that demands a forthright stand against retrogressive forces and those representing status quo — Bilawal has not hesitated in taking the bulls by the horn. He has the dare of his mother and her dauntless determination too, to face the extremists and to take though decisions when challenges are onerous. Tall, handsome, educated with the magical touch of his late mother and the flair of his grandfather, the emergence of Benazir Bhutto’s son as her legal — is indeed the most important political development in politics of Pakistan that will have far reaching impact on Pakistani politics and usher in seminal changes of far-reaching consequences.
His heart warming performance at the Davos’ World Economic Forum with global icons has made the nation proud for having discovered an exceptional leader who stood tall among the tallest. Though a singular performance appreciated by all and sundry, has placed him in the company of those few who would travel far to pastures new pushing forward their masses in pursuit of general weal.
Bilawal is definitely a new star on Pakistan’s political horizon that Bhutto supporters and PPP voters had been anxiously waiting for. Each and every line of his speech got full throated endorsement from a roaring crowd in the Golden Anniversary public meeting in Islamabad and plaudits in Davos — are no doubt reminder of the old glory days of PPP when SZAB and martyred Bibi would breath fire into crowds with their magnificent populist oratory.
Notwithstanding the fact that times have changed and there are growing security constraints, Bilawal shall have to shed that status quo tag and must expand his systematic attempt to connect with the voters. Like SZAB and SMBB, he should venture into populist activities like organising and participating in sporting activities or be seen in dhabas having meal with the plebs, unannounced appearances in the fields with peasants, in local markets interacting with the local public like Bhutto Sahib and Bibi often did. His preference should be to be seen with younger elements rather than be surrounded and discard the political ruins.
The writer is the former High Commissioner of Pakistan to UK and a veteran journalist
Published in Daily Times, January 31st 2018.