The politics of Pakistan at a street level tend to keep the past close to the top of the here-and-now agenda, and the large rally addressed by the PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari on 18th October was no exception. He addressed the crowd from the top of the armoured container which saved the life of his mother Benazir Bhutto on the same date in 2007; and had previously visited the tomb of the Sindhi hero of yesteryear Hosh Muhammed Sheedi who had fought the British in the 19th century. His speech contained numerous references to his grandfather Zulfikar Ali Bhutto who he dubbed the father of ‘Bhuttoism’ – which is the only alternative to dictatorship apparently, thus consigning at a stroke every other political party to a dictatorial outer darkness. He spoke obliquely – nobody ever gives the details – of internal and external forces that were seeking to push the country to civil war and there were of course innumerable conspiracies being hatched which sought to ‘derail democracy’.
The speech lasted close to 90 minutes and was peppered with virtually every slogan that the PPP has ever contrived. There was a call for free and fair elections in 2018 and Mr Bhutto implored the sitting government to give Karachi ‘its due’ and appealed to the citizens of Karachi to all join hands in pursuit of the ever-elusive peace. The past and assorted symbols addressed, there was a nod to the future and a commitment to the reorganization of the PPP starting on November 30th when the party holds its anniversary convention – and if true then it is a reorganisation that is long overdue. There is a political churn in process in Pakistan and the PPP is going to have to work hard to regain the position it had before it was trounced in the last election – rigging or not. There needs to be a set of clearly enunciated policies that go beyond the promissory notes of political rallying. The party needs to democratise itself and bring on the leaders of the future rather than shuffle the deck of aging hacks. Shake hands with the past by all means, but move on – or die.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 20th, 2014.
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