Kicking off his political career with a massive rally at the mausoleum of the Quaid-i-Azam on Saturday, the chairman of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, hit out at all political rivals calling them to give up ‘Ziaism’ and embrace ‘Bhuttoism’.
“The problem with the PML-N [Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz] government is that the spirit of [former military dictator] Ziaul Haq still dominates its policies,” the scion of the Bhutto family said, addressing the mammoth crowd of PPP activists who had poured into Karachi from across the country. “I urge Nawaz Sharif to embrace Bhuttoism and practice good governance in order to strengthen democracy and save the country.”
Maintaining that his grandfather and PPP’s founder, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, laid down the foundations of true democracy in Pakistan, Bilawal said: “It is interesting that even his [ZA Bhutto’s] enemies take oath under the Constitution my grandfather had framed in 1973.”
Bilawal added that there were only two political forces in the country: “On one side, you have Bhuttoism and on the other, you have the fans of dictatorship who want to perpetuate the status quo… you will find the latter walking in the footsteps of General Zia and General Musharraf.”
Recalling the attack on his mother Benazir Bhutto’s homecoming caravan at Karsaz on October 18, 2007, the Oxford graduate said the forces working against ‘Bhuttoism’ were afraid of a woman who had challenged dictatorship and sought to bring about democracy in Pakistan.
“I’m ready to face the consequences… I would prefer to die, but I cannot give up my mother’s mission,” Bilawal said from atop his bombproof container, the same one that had saved his mother’s life seven years ago on the same day.
He added that anti-democratic forces constantly worked again PPP’s mission, “either in the shape of Pakistan National Alliance (PNA) or Islami Jamhoori Ittehad (IJI), or through actions such as the hanging of ZA Bhutto and the assassination of Benazir.”
Talking about protest sit-in of Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) against rigging in the May 2013 general elections, the PPP chairperson said, “We, democratic people, want to bring change through votes rather than by derailing democracy the same way as the PNA had toppled my grandfather’s elected government in 1977.”
Calling Imran a ‘puppet opposition leader’ propped against Prime Minister Nawaz’s ‘puppet government’, Bilawal urged him to give up ‘politics of sit-ins’ and work for the betterment of internally displaced people (IDPs) and victims of the recent floods across the country.
“Where is Insaf [justice] in Tehreek-e-Insaf… Imran Khan promised to root out corruption in 90 days, but failed to do so… he promises to build Naya Pakistan, but he can’t even deliver a Naya Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P),” Bilawal said. “The PTI wants to establish its writ in Lahore the same way Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) has established its writ in Karachi.”
His statement prompted some emphatic PPP supporters to chant ‘Go Imran, Go’ alongside ‘Go Nawaz, Go’.
The PPP leader also hit out at the MQM, saying that despite holding the health portfolio in the Sindh government for the last 20 years, the party had failed to deliver even basic health facilities. “If any deadly virus breaks out here now, the people of Sindh will make MQM’s life miserable… even I won’t be able to save the MQM,” he said.
Accusing MQM of leaving Karachi in ruin, Bilawal said the city would gain ‘true independence’ in 2018.
Responding to chants by supporters, Bilawal said, “I am rebel, I am a Bhutto,” and announced that the party will be re-organised after Youm-e-Tasees (foundation day) on November 30. “We will hold a meeting of our party office bears and bring drastic changes in the party. We will do whatever you want,” he said.
Bilawal claimed there was a ‘script’ being enacted to bring about a civil war in Pakistan, much like Iraq and Syria. “A new script has been written after the murder of [al Qaeda chief] Osama Bin Laden. An office of militant organisation opened up in Peshawar. All democratic forces in Pakistan should join hands to foil this conspiracy,” he said.
Regarding the issue of Kashmir, he said the Indian government and media were trying to malign PPP’s image and muzzle its voice since it is “the only Pakistani party whose voice is heard around the world.”
The PPP chairperson also criticised the judiciary, saying that while it was very active in punishing people like Aasia Bibi for blasphemy, it kept mum when it came to militants. “Whenever our competent officers take action against extremists, the judiciary orders their transfer,” he said, adding that if judges were afraid, they ought to sit at home.
PPP Co-Chairperson Asif Ali Zardari, former premiers Yousaf Raza Gilani and Raja Pervaiz Ashraf and senior party leaders Aitzaz Ahsan, Fahmida Mirza and Makhdoom Amin Fahim also spoke at the rally.
Zardari admitted that past elections had been stolen, but urged protesting quarters to look forward rather than engaging in a blame game. “We [PPP] want to save democracy, but they call us pro-government,” he said. He added that Imran had once supported the referendum of a dictator. The former president also urged MQM chief Altaf Hussain to join hands with him for a better Pakistan, not weaken it.
Aitzaz Ahsan, meanwhile, stressed the need to induct new blood in the party and requested Bilawal to do so.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 19th, 2014.