For Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, the lack of progress in bringing to trial Pervez Musharraf – whom he blamed for the murder of his mother and former prime minister Benazir Bhutto – is ‘frustrating’.
“We’ve approached Interpol about issuing a red warrant for the arrest of the former military ruler, Pervez Musharraf, so he can return to Pakistan, and face charges for the role he played in the assassination [of Benazir Bhutto],” said the chairman of the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) in an exclusive interview with The Express Tribune.
The young chairman was, however, blunter in a separate interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer. “[Musharraf] murdered my mother. I hold him responsible for that,” he said. “He’d threatened her himself in the past. He said: ‘Your security is directly linked to our relationship and our cooperation.’
“Al Qaeda issued the instructions to do it, the Taliban carried out the actual attack, while Pervez Musharraf purposely sabotaged my mother’s security when he knew there was going to be attacks, so she would be eliminated,” the PPP chairman said.
Relations with the US
Back at Ambassador Sherry Rehman’s residence in Washington, Bilawal measured every word, mindful of the recorder that was rolling.
On a week-long trip to Washington, Bilawal, who turns 24 this year, said that he has been welcomed positively by everyone he met in the US.
“They have a lot of respect for my mother, my father, our party and our government. But obviously the relationship is at a very critical point. But both sides are working to find a solution to the problems, and I am confident that we are on our way to making some progress,” Bilawal said.
The aspiring leader is under no delusion though.
“I don’t believe everyone appreciates how angry the rest of the world is with Pakistan,” he said when asked if Pakistanis understand how the rest of the world views them.
“But that’s also partly because the rest of the world doesn’t appreciate how much Pakistan has done,” he added, citing the number of Pakistani security personnel and civilians killed in the war, which, he said, included his mother.
For all the bitterness, “the US and Pakistan have a common goal, and the only way to achieve that goal is together,” he said while talking about the future of Pak-US bilateral relationship.
“If Afghanistan descends into civil war and chaos, that will spill over into Pakistan like it did in the 80s. It would be devastating for Pakistan, and for regional stability, if we do not find common ground and if we do not find a way to improve our relations with the US. At the same time, I would urge the US to appreciate all that we’ve done. I think they’re getting a bit carried away and impatient,” he said.
Dynasty and minorities
On dynastic politics, Bilawal said that while other parties, which have not witnessed the same sort of tragedy that the PPP has, criticise them, they also have their own families involved in politics.
“I don’t believe they are severely criticised for it either,” he added.
The young chairman has stood up for the rights of minorities in his personal capacity, but said that he did not believe his party’s government has not done enough.
“We’ve set up a powerful human rights commission … I believe it will play an active role, and address many of these issues that we are facing,” he said. He said he was ‘perplexed’ when the PPP is hit from both sides on the minority rights issue.
“Salmaan Taseer was our party’s governor; Shahbaz Bhatti, [a Christian federal minister for minority affairs], was from our party. We are on the frontline, risking our lives for this cause,” he added.
How does he feel about the suspects in Bhatti’s case walking free, or the appeal for Mumtaz Qadri, the self-confessed assassin of Taseer, pending in court? Bilawal smiles wryly, “I have the highest respect for the judiciary in Pakistan, I have high hopes from the judiciary of Pakistan; I hope they’ll get justice.”
On the role he looks to play in the upcoming elections, the PPP leader said he “will most likely be campaigning for the party and defending our record. I am confident about, and proud of what we have achieved.”
“There is always room for improvement, no one’s perfect. But I’m extremely proud of our achievements. We’ve achieved more this time around than any of our governments in the past, that’s a huge deal,” he added.
Asked what kind of Pakistan he would like to see, Bilawal said, “I’d like to see a Pakistan where women are treated the same as men; where every single Pakistani, regardless of ethnicity and religion, is treated equally. I’d like to see a Pakistan that’s a welfare state, not just a security state.”
With additional input from APP.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 26th, 2012.
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