The new Bhutto

My piece published in Express India

In his first political address, Bilawal Bhutto took a stand against extremism

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari made his debut political address on the fifth death anniversary of his mother, Benazir Bhutto, in a small, dusty village in Sindh, synonymous with the Bhuttos and their tragic lives. Dynastic succession is not unusual in Pakistan or South Asia, and Bilawal has been the chairperson of the party since his mother’s death. However, he has stayed away from active politics in the past few years, completing his studies and getting acquainted with the gigantic party machinery. The Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) remains one of the largest parties in the country, with a presence in almost all provinces and regions of Pakistan.

On Thursday, Bilawal reminded everyone of the sacrifices his mother and grandfather had made and connected with his core constituency — PPP workers and supporters who have been in search of a charismatic leader since the demise of Benazir. His father, President Asif Ali Zardari, is a skilful political player but lacks popular appeal. His public movements are also constrained by the security threats faced by moderate and liberal politicians.

Standing at Garhi Khuda Baksh, the site of the imposing mausoleum of the Bhuttos, Bilawal reiterated the old narrative put forward by his family: how democracy and popular will had remained and were still confronted by the powerful forces of the permanent military establishment and the judges. Pakistan’s Supreme Court is now a freer institution but in the past, it has played second fiddle to the military and often ruled against the PPP. The hanging of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto is a case in point. So Bilawal addressed top judges: “Can’t you see the blood of Benazir Bhutto on the roads of Rawalpindi? I, as an heir of Bhutto, ask why the killers of my mother have not been punished.” Continue reading “The new Bhutto”