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Thursday, August 5, 2010

Pakistan's fêted son anticipates his days as a dynastic democrat:By Cahal Milmo

Heir to bloody political legacy set to take over 

Amid the ultra-tight security that will see all mobile phones and liquids banned from the room, President Asif Ali Zardari will address more than 2,000 British Pakistanis in Birmingham on Saturday. Officially, the speech is to shore up the Pakistani leader's support in Britain but the real reason for his appearance will be the young man sitting beside him in a smart suit.
Until early this summer, the habitual environment of Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, the son of President Zardari and his assassinated wife, Benazir Bhutto, had been the sandstone quads of Oxford's Christ Church College where the young undergraduate studied for a history degree and followed in his revered mother's footsteps by joining the Oxford Union.
But while the weeks immediately following finals exams normally present new graduates with a chance to take it easy on a foreign beach or worry about paying off their heavy debts, Bilawal is stepping straight into the political limelight as a novice 21-year-old statesman and the heir apparent to a wealthy political dynasty with an unending talent for bloody internecine strife.
The gathering of Mr Zardari's Pakistan People's Party (PPP) in Hall 3 of Birmingham's International Convention Centre is widely billed as the formal launch of Bilawal's political career following his graduation from Oxford with a freshly-minted 2:1 degree.
It is a career which senior PPP figures have publicly stated they want to see culminating in the young man becoming his embattled country's prime minister, a post held twice by his mother to both the acclaim and disgust of her fellow Pakistanis.
Embroiled in long-standing corruption allegations which earned him the nickname "Mr Ten Per Cent" and unease over his strategy in dealing with terrorism, Mr Zardari is badly in need of a boost to his support among influential British Pakistanis and is expected to announce that he is handing sole control of the PPP to his son. As one source put it: "What better way of dealing with the critics than unveiling an unblemished replacement?"
Waheed Rasab, the PPP's co-ordinator for the UK and the European Union, insisted the Birmingham meeting – which will be attended by more than 2,500 people – was primarily a chance for British Pakistanis to hear directly from Mr Zardari, whose reputed personal fortune is put at £1bn.
But he added: "Bilawal has been brought up by his mother, he embodies her values. He believes in a democratic Pakistan but it is a tough country in which to survive."
Ever since the murder of his mother in a bomb blast during the 2007 presidential elections, Bilawal has been quietly groomed for power.
At a hasty press conference in the basement of a Knightsbridge hotel within days of Mrs Bhutto's death, her son was appointed co-chairman of the PPP with his father and vowed to take on the family business of politics once he had completed his education.
Noting his mother's assertion that "democracy is the best revenge", Bilawal announced he was taking on her name before saying: "When I return, I promise to lead the party as my mother wanted me to."
President Zardari, who arrived in Britain last night at the start of a five-day tour – to a backdrop of heavy criticism of his decision to go ahead with the visit when three million Pakistanis are stricken by flooding – has made clear his determination to thrust his son into global politics. As the Pakistani leadership emerged from the Elysée Palace in Paris yesterday, it was Bilawal who stood beside his father during the official photocall with President Nicolas Sarkozy. Bilawal was also chosen to accompany his father to an important meeting with Barack Obama last May, after which the US president declared himself impressed by the then student's "talent and prudence". Even for a young man as precociously self-assured and mild mannered as the young Mr Bhutto Zardari, the expectations placed upon him are perhaps dangerously high.
A senior PPP member in Pakistan told The Independent: "Bilawal was a shy young man when his mother died. Now he is in a position to talk to the most powerful people in the world.
"We have started our work well but there is much to be done. It is not going too far to say that we consider him to be the best hope for Pakistan's political future."
All of which is a far cry from the world of Oxford nightclubs and Facebook posts that had until recently punctuated Bilawal's existence, complete with round-the-clock protection by officers from Scotland Yard's diplomatic protection squad.
To raised eyebrows back home, the only son of Mrs Bhutto used his social networking account to discuss attending off-beat nightspots, the joys of "free alcohol" and his friendship with a girl called Boozie Suzie.
Although there is no suggestion that Bilawal drinks alcohol, friends at Oxford said he had made the most of an informal agreement to complete his degree beyond the scrutiny of the media. One friend said: "He was well-liked and charismatic. I think he knew this was his chance to live life a little before taking on the burden of a political career. He definitely has a strong sense of duty. He would post quotations from his mother on his Facebook. He once said 'it is me or the Taliban'."
It is understood that Bilawal, who cannot become an MP in Pakistan until he is 25, will now spend his time between Dubai, where he spent much of his childhood while his father was in prison on corruption charges, and Pakistan, as he begins an ascent to power.
It is a journey already steeped in the blood of his forebears. Bilawal's grandfather, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, the founder of the PPP, was hanged in 1979 on the orders of Pakistan's military dictatorship while his uncle, Murtaza, was shot dead by police outside his home. Mr Zardari was accused of ordering Murtaza's murder with the blessing of his wife but was later cleared of involvement in the killing.
On Saturday afternoon, a new member of the Bhutto clan will step forward to accept that strangest of modern political roles – the dynastic democrat. In his only previous public speech, Bilawal said: "We must guarantee the freedoms of speech, assembly and all other freedoms of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This will create an environment where no dictatorship can ever thrive." 
Perhaps unsurprisingly, some of the staunchest criticism of Bilawal's chosen career should come from within his own family. Fatima Bhutto, a daughter of Murtaza Bhutto and Bilawal's cousin, said yesterday: "I think the idea that the future of the PPP, which after all is a people's party, or that of Pakistan, is going to be saved by a single family is what has landed us in this mess in the first place."

NOTE:This is a cross post from The Independent


  1. what a good it would have been if the president was here now, alongwith his son, the "dynastic" democrat, in the flood affected areas, visiting a mud plastered hut "a jhuggi", and sitting on ground eating there with the residents of the hut.

    THAT is what pppp needed, THAT's what the president needed, and THAT's how the career of the new blood should have begun. instead what's he going to learn from his fathers' move?? when your people are in trouble, you can visit outside, in designer clothes, staying at fancy hotels etc.

  2. Bilawal would have done better before taking on this new responsibility, by staying for as long as he could among the different corners of this land. to get to know the people a little better. from the ground level. look at the history, all the dynastic rulers who began this way were granted glory later. but the ones who were spoon-fed, and kept away from the people, they had no future ahead of them.

  3. The occasion is sad and chosing is adverse . It is bad ominous.Nevertheless Bilawal Zardari is the best hope for Asif Zardari to digest the ill gotten wealth.Thiefry is not going to succeed,I am afraid.

  4. only then, he would realize, like his mother did when she returned here, how much things have changed. alas, when she did, she was assassinated. as the powers that be, didn't like the change in her attitude.

    i, or for that matter, pakistanis don't know about him much. but i do know a little about his cousin, Fatima, she has that same charisma and intellect as benazir. unfortunately, the party, and hence the followers, will go on to follow the new leader. without getting to know him, chanting, "jiye bhutto" and "zinda hai bhutto zinda hai".

    all i can hope is, may he be better than the current crop of the leaders we see.

  5. The slogan shd be,"Jiye Pakistan."

  6. :-) inam you and i both know what the slogan will be. :-)

    although, very rightly, the need of the hour is, "jiye pakistan". and not only the need of the hour, but the future as well.

  7. I share a mail from Dr Nasim:
    The political landscape in Pakistan has changed after the press became free. Bilawal may have to work very hard to prove himself in Pakistan.

    Pakistan at this point is not Egypt or Syria where the state machinery and army is geared towards dynestic rule. It is turbulent country. Even Benazir went through a period of great uncetainty in her political life.

    My hunch is that in next elections, the public may create a revolution in the elections. Let us all watch and see what happens.


  8. i agree with what Dr. Nasim has to say about revolution. Either the next elections, or before that.

    the things that are happening now in pakistan (free media to a large extent and public awareness, and no interruption from the dictators) should have happened soon after the creation of pakistan, and by now, we would've been a country which was one of the most stable (economically, physically) countries in the region.

  9. Atleast He is Educated and he went to OXFORD and he graduated...Now he should do his Masters at Harward, he has time to kill till he is 25yrs of age..But he will be a "Breath of fresh air"after his illiterate Dad, who is atotally the opposite of him... I wish to wish this young Man the best of luck...

  10. yes arif, hope he is better.

    i saw him standing with his father, sister and Cameron. the difference in his father and him is very visible. from the clothes to the expressions.

  11. Reproducing comments from Dr. Zaigham,

    "Frankly I am a little sick about hearing people cribbing, complaining and
    cursing Zardari. Its one thing to hear the media telling us about his wealth
    and mansions and what’s going on in his life so that our 'general knowledge'
    about our President is updated. But these never- ending *tabsaras* and our
    continuous gifts to him of very hard-earned good deeds that will be
    to his Hereafter Account for each time that we bad-mouth him is what really
    gets my goat.
    People, if we can’t do anything concrete to change him or the situation, how
    about a better use of our tongue every time we feel the anger rising when
    his name comes up? How about each one of us making *dua* to the Almighty to
    guide him towards all that is good. Allah is the *Muqallibul Quloob-*the
    Turner of Hearts and there are enough examples in Islamic history that prove
    that the people who were the foremost in *Jahilliyah*-the Days of Ignorance
    became the best in Islam. Now just imagine the power of *dua* and what the
    Omnipotent can do!"

  12. In response to Dr. Zaigham.

    dua works, yes. and i hope people start duas as well when his name comes up as u suggest.

    but it is also written in the Holy Book, the very first paarah,

    "And when they fall in with those who believe, they say: We believe; but when they go apart to their devils they declare: Lo! we are with you; verily we did but mock. (14) Allah (Himself) doth mock them, leaving them to wander blindly on in their contumacy. (15) These are they who purchase error at the price of guidance, so their commerce doth not prosper, neither are they guided. (16) Their likeness is as the likeness of one who kindleth fire, and when it sheddeth its light around him Allah taketh away their light and leaveth them in darkness, where they cannot see, (17) Deaf, dumb and blind; and they return not. "

    for some people, even the light all around them doesnt enable them to see or hear.