Sunday, January 13, 2013

Q&A: Latest Political Developments in Pakistan


Question:
On December 27 2012, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari the only son of President Zadari formally announced his entry into Pakistani politics. Please can you explain as to why he has chosen this moment to enter the Pakistani political medium and is this move connected to the Pakistani general elections in 2013?
Answer:
One needs to bear the following points in mind before answering the question:
1. The political medium in Pakistan and other countries of the Indian sub-continent are dominated by rich families who have been involved in dynastic politics from the early days of independence from the British Raj. These families in collusion with major powers such as Britain and America have dominated the political life of Pakistan, India and Bangladesh, and view ruling these respective countries as their birth right. Hence, it not uncommon to find the political landscape in Pakistan dominated by the Bhutto family or the Sharif brothers, the political scene in India overshadowed by the fortunes of the Gandi family, and the political life in Bangladesh governed by the antics of the families of Zia Rahman and Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
Bilawal is shaped by this mindset and regards participation in Pakistani politics as a way of continuing the legacy of his maternal grandfather Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, the father of Benazir Bhutto who was the mother of Bilawal. Thus Bilawal made several references to this political legacy that he wishes to continue. Speaking at his unveiling ceremony close to his mother's tomb he said that the Pakistan's Peoples Party (PPP) stood for "food, clothes and shelter" and he said, "The PPP is not just a political party. This is our life."
2. In the sub-continent, foreign powers and their intelligence agencies spend a great deal of time and effort to cultivate and win over family members from these political dynasties to rule on their behalf. It is one of the preferred styles of major powers to dominate and control the political medium via political dynasties. And when a member of a political dynasty becomes no longer useful or they oppose the wishes of their master the person is quietly retired from active politics or is killed. In the case, of the Bhutto family, members have been killed or assassinated in ensuing struggles between Britain and America for control of PPP.
Hence it is not surprising to see Britain and America courting and encouraging Bilawal to follow in the footsteps of his mother or grandfather.
3. Another factor in Bilawal's formal declaration is to reverse the flagging fortunes of the PPP. The PPP has been badly discredited through numerous corruption scandals, incompetence and nepotism. The plummeting popularity of Zardari has also hurt tremendously the ability of the PPP to mount an effective campaign for the general elections scheduled for later this year. With this in mind, the young Bilawal was encouraged to partake in the public lime light and reconnect traditional PPP values with the disgruntled PPP voter base. This in many ways is similar to what Rahul Gandhi tried to do for the Congress Party a few years ago. It should also be remembered that because of his age, Bilawal is unable to contest the upcoming general election. So his role is more ceremonial and a beginning of a long political grooming journey.
4. But perhaps the most important factor in Bilawal's announcement is that America is desperate for fresh faces untainted with corruption scandals to participate in Pakistan's political life. The whole edifice of Pakistan's political structure is tainted with crony politicians who are incompetent and no longer represent the interests of their constituencies. With the formal introduction of Imran Khan 2011 and Bilawal in 2012, America is looking to move away from the current political malaise that has taken hold of the country.
In conclusion, Bilawal's entry into Pakistan's political scene is to give some boost to PPP cadres ahead of the upcoming general elections as well as to begin his political grooming. However, America is facing huge obstacles in its efforts to bring fresh faces to the political landscape. The foremost of which is anti-Americanism and the renewed political awakening amongst the people. Because of this development, American efforts to promote Imran Khan have been disastrous as people view Imran Khan as a staunchly pro-American man surrounded by a sea of American agents committed to preserving its hegemony in Pakistan. It is more than likely that Bilawal will be viewed in a similar manner, if not worse as the stigma of his father will haunt him forever.
24 Safar 1434
2013/01/06


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