PPP needs Bilawal Bhutto, not Zardari

Published: February 22, 2015

They might not admit it, but deep down even the staunchest of PPP supporters know that the party will not be a serious contender at the 2018 elections.

There is nothing sadder than seeing great ideas go bad. This is perhaps why witnessing the current state of Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) is so disappointing. Historically, there has not been a more potent political force in Pakistan than PPP. Not in terms of organisational ability, not in terms of ideological potency and certainly not in terms of vote bank.

But after the disastrous tenure at the helm from 2008 to 2013, aided by factors that were out of the leadership’s control to an extent, PPP has been reduced to a regional party.

For the longest time in Pakistan’s political web, the vote bank was divided between two sides: pro-PPP and anti-PPP. It was classic left versus right. As things stand currently, the biggest players in our political arena do not include PPP. The fact that PPP is still the official opposition in the parliament makes this even more surprising.

But once everything is evaluated on merit, there is no denying that a large chunk of the mess PPP finds itself in is its own creation. Yes, the military takeovers have hit PPP the hardest. Yes, there have been schemes to bring down a PPP government every time, but it would be naïve to claim that only external factors have ruined PPP. Internal factors have played an equal, if not more important, role in ruining PPP.

And this is where Bilawal Bhutto comes in.

Disgruntled members of the party have flown to meet Bilawal in London, in a move that makes cracks within the PPP’s armour even more visible. It was always understood that Asif Ali Zardari was never going to command the same respect in the party as his wife and father-in-law did, but now those differences are becoming more evident.

After bursting on to Pakistan’s political arena post 2013, Bilawal showed all the signs of being exactly the tonic PPP needed. He spoke passionately against the Taliban as others minced their words, he organised a massively successful festival in Sindh bringing back a much needed feel-good factor in depressing times, but most importantly, he made PPP relevant again and this time for all the right reasons. Fast forward a couple of years, and that step in PPP’s politics, that energy that Bilawal brought, it all appears to be a thing of the past. The opportunity to revitalise itself appears to be slipping out of PPP’s hands.

Being the country’s oldest political force, it is only understandable that traditional PPP loyalists and members of the old guard still command a fair bit of influence in a party now led by Asif Ali Zardari. Bilawal’s enthusiastic approach, which managed to step on a few toes in the process, has not fared well with everyone inside PPP. While it is imperative that brilliant minds such as Aitzaz Ahsan and Raza Rabbani remain central to the PPP’s plans, it is time for others, Zardari included, to take a back seat and let Bilawal take a more pivotal role.

Ever since Bilawal hit the headlines post 2013, interest in PPP among the youth has only increased. While it is unfair to claim that PPP has managed to attract the same youth following as Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), the numbers remain impressive nevertheless. While PTI is on the way up as far as its political footprint goes, PPP unfortunately is not. That is why utilising the youth footprint has become so important.

It is no secret that by the time the next scheduled elections are held in 2018, Bilawal will be the face of PPP. The grandson of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and the son of Benazir Bhutto, Bilawal will be PPP’s most potent vote winner. For that to happen effectively, and if PPP wants to rebuild its tarnished legacy, Bilawal needs to be given more space to manoeuvre, not less. Yes, he will make mistakes; yes, he will tick people off, but that is what will make him grow as a politician.

They might not admit it, but deep down even the staunchest of PPP supporters know that the party will not be a serious contender at the 2018 elections. That will be dominated by PTI and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), but if PPP plays its cards right, then four years down the road in 2022, things could work in its favour. But for all of that to even have a remote chance of happening, Bilawal needs to be face of PPP. Not Zardari. Not anyone from the old guards.

Bilawal brings unparalleled political legacy with him – a legacy that no one in PML-N or PTI can boast of. That legacy and his youth can work well for PPP but there needs to be an acceptance within the party’s rank and file that the old guards either need to call it a day or take a back seat. Expecting the party to become a potent force with the same old people would be naïve.

salman Zafar

Salman Zafar

The writer works in the Education Sector and tweets as @salmanzafar1985 (twitter.com/salmanzafar1985)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Aziz Ihsan

    Bilawal is a Zardari, he can’t be Bhutto nor PPP belongs to him. PPP belongs to Fatima and ZAB Jr.Recommend

  • Hyderabad ka bunda.

    Baby Bhutto is not a politician. He is immature. Not very smart. No experience.
    Alienated Karachi’s Mohajjir community and main vote constituency. You do
    not win elections in Sindh. without the votes of 15 million Mohajjirs. Nada. Zip.
    PPP is also known as the Dead People’s Party. Cult of the Dead from Garhi
    Khuda Baksh. And Baby did irreparable damage to a 5500 year old historical
    site. Mohenjo Daro, a World Heritage site. By staging this festival there.
    No,..nope,..no,.. no not needed, not wanted. Baby Bhutto need to stay at the
    family Chateau in Paris or the Estate in London.Recommend

  • Faisal

    We don’t want either of them. Thank you.Recommend

  • Anon

    I see PPP’s media cells efforts of trying to distance Bilawal from Zardari anf re-launch him as a separate entity are paying dividends!

    Zulfiqar Mirza playing the good cop bad cop routine perfectly…Recommend

  • normskyy

    Is this article supposed to be a joke? Not even April yet!Recommend

  • Sohail Abbasi

    Its bilawal ZARDARI not bhutto please correct it,Recommend

  • Shakir Lakhani

    The only thing Bilawal can do to win the hearts and minds of people is to announce that he will bring back to the country all the wealth looted by you-know-who. Otherwise, he stands no chance.Recommend

  • tman
  • r t

    Pakistan doesnt need ppp full stop.Recommend

  • saleemhassan

    A balanced and logical analysis of PPP’s current state of affairs.Recommend

  • Parvez

    Aitzaz Ahsan has come out with a small book ‘ How to Steal an Election ‘……….so if it were done once successfully in 2013 by one party…….why not again by the PPP-Z in 2018 …..and then again by PML-N five years later……with mutual consent of both.
    In fact Bilawal becomes redundant in such a a scenario.Recommend

  • Naeem Khan

    PPP needs none of these dynastic and corrupt leaders.Recommend

  • Nameless

    what a waste of wordsRecommend

  • Aysha M

    PPP needs elected chairman, it doesnt have to be Zardari or BilawalRecommend

  • NazirKAli

    Yessir, Pakistan does not want PPP and its foreign raised babies. We want Pakistani leaders who speak the language colloquially, and commix with the citizens. Someone who is, “Of the people, for the people, and by the people.” SalamsRecommend

  • NazirKAli

    Salman Zafar, Sir, why don’t you enter politics and assuredly you will get my vote. We need people like you. Yessir, we need you and not the PPP or Bilawal. Frankly, I don’t understand the importance given to the young man. Are you incapable of leading with the right foot? Nossir, there are multitudes of very good people in Pakistan who can lead and we DEFINITELY do not need people from the PPP. SalamsRecommend

  • ovais

    Only a person who lives in a bubble and alienated from problems in karachi could write this . Pakistan doesnt even need PPP let alone that billo rani. ET you have set a precedent of publishing ridiculous blogs and bloggers KUDOSRecommend

  • Maximus Decimus Meridius

    Awesome comment. I was going to write a comment quite like yours but you have so articulately elaborated what I had in my mind that I will just plus one yours and write this to tell you that many people share the same thoughts.Recommend

  • Custard_Pie_In_Your_Face

    So you’re concerned about PPP being reduced to a regional party, but not by the fact that the PPP is nothing more than a one family owned party that sees Pakistan as nothing more than a heirloom.

    If educated people like yourself can’t see how wrong the whole PPP set up is then this country has absolutely no chance of moving forward.

    The PPP needs to re-invent itself in order to gain any kind of credibility. With a Bhutto/Zardari at the helm there’s no chance of this happening.Recommend

  • hatim

    The only legacy Bilawal Zardari brings is that of corruption and stupidity.Recommend

  • Hyderabad ka bunda.

    Thanks for the kind thoughts.Recommend

  • Muhammad

    Well analysed! Bilawal has got the spark. Wish him best of luck.Recommend

  • Munis

    Altaf is elected chariman???Recommend

  • munis saraiki

    very well written article.. Bilawal will win elections of 2018 IA.. some pti supporters have a habit of posting many comments with different names.. bilawal just need a terrorist free punjab than every one will see what is the power of bhottoism..Recommend

  • Bilal

    I really hope you are right, I hope Bilawal comes out his father’s shadow. But we need new young faces with no prior political connection to steer Pakistan in the right direction. TeamBilawal consist of no one other than TeamZardari’s members sons and other Wadera ka beta. Most importantly people’s mindset need to change. A status quo person should be frowned upon rather than aspired of.Recommend

  • Zulfiqar Ali

    Great analysis…only Bilawal has the guts and eagerness to pull off the terrorism from the country!Recommend