Let Bilawal and Bakhtawar takeover Bhutto’s party

Published: April 4, 2015
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PHOTO: MALIHA REHMAN

It is ironic that around the time of the death anniversary of the greatest civilian leader Pakistan has ever seen, the party he founded is a shadow of its former self. Massively talented with an ego to match, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto will forever remain etched in the memory of every Pakistani.

For the ones who saw him during his life, and even for those who only read about him in history books, his name ignites a passion no other leader in the country’s history has been able to match.

Benazir Bhutto was the natural successor as the party leader after her father was executed in a sham trial. After Benazir’s assassination, it was obvious to everyone that her eldest son, Bilawal Bhutto, would take over the reins at some point in the future. While understanding that was fairly simple, what has not been fairly simple is the PPP’s ability to utilise Bilawal in the best manner. Only recently, news of Bakhtawar Bhutto entering politics has emerged too.

Bakhtawar’s rumoured entry into politics, if true, is welcome news. Not because it gives PPP another member of the Bhutto family to revive the party, but because Pakistani politics needs women who can make an impact on a national stage.

Currently, our political web lacks women who could potentially develop into national leaders in the future. There is talk of Maryam Nawaz as future heir to PML-N’s leadership, but she has not made any significant impact yet. PTI, despite having an impressive list of women members, lacks a member who could take centre stage at the national level. The same applies to MQM, ANP and other political entities in the country.

This is a trend that mirrors what goes on in our society – highly male dominated areas with very few opportunities for women. While it is true that things have improved over time and our socio-political dynamics have made space for women, it is nowhere near optimal level.

A country which had the brilliant Fatima Jinnah playing a pivotal role in its struggle for independence should not be a country where women struggle to participate actively in political life. This is what makes Bakhtawar’s entry into politics even more relevant.

In order for Bakhtawar to make a strong impact however, she needs to be given freedom. The PPP has been in a rut for a while, and even its most passionate supporters know this deep down, even if they refuse to admit it publicly. One of the many problems facing PPP right now is the divide between the old and new. Understandably, the old guard wants to remain relevant and not forego the influence they yield in the party. But it is time for the old guard to take a permanent back seat, and let Bakhtawar and Bilawal take centre stage.

The PPP has nothing to lose and everything to gain. It has been reduced to a regional party and if the young minds within the party are not given the room to manoeuvre, then things will go from bad to worse. This is one of the reasons why Bilawal has taken, or at least been forced into taking, a beat seat.

As things stand currently, he will not be present in Pakistan for his grandfather’s death anniversary and this is something that does not make the PPP look good in front of its age-old loyalists, despite all the clarifications.

While all is not lost for the PPP, what needs to be realised is that you only miss a finite number of opportunities. The mistakes made in handling Bilawal must not be repeated when it comes to launching Bakhtawar’s political career.

Bring back Bilawal. Launch Bakhtawar. Give both of them the space and freedom they need, and things will face in place. There is a huge vacuum in Pakistani politics when it comes to young energetic minds, and both Bilawal and Bakhtawar can fill that void.

Turn it back into the enigmatic left-wing party Zulfikar Ali Bhutto founded. Not the dry right-wing one Asif Ali Zardari turned it into.

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.