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Murtaza Ali Shah
Tuesday, February 04, 2014
From Print Edition
 
 

 

LONDON: Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) leader Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has been praised for his daring and open criticism of Taliban and other extremist groups and for organising the Sindhi cultural festival to highlight the real heritage of Pakistan.

 

Bilawal told The Telegraph that his “two-week cultural festival was designed to reclaim ground lost to militants and extremists”.

 

He added: “This is Pakistan’s history, this is Pakistan’s culture and we’re proud of it. We going to try to mark out a line in the sand and say this is who we are and fight back against that.”

 

British media praised Bilawal for making his views known to the public at a time when most leaders of Pakistan are sheepish in their criticism out of fear of the extremist and sectarian groups who have killed their opponents with impunity. “It is a bold move by a young man so far untested in the country’s ferocious politics but his vision for Pakistan could yet provide the philosophical framework for a tilt at power and a revitalised country- or provide his death sentence,” said the paper. It is said that Bilawal conceived the idea of Sindh Cultural Festival at the ancient site of Mohenjodaro with the help of a small circle of friends from his Oxford days.

 

The paper said that Bilawal has caught attention with his repeated calls for decisive action against the Pakistan Taliban, the group that killed his mother Benazir Bhutto at a public rally in Rawalpindi in 2007. He said becoming prime minister was not his aim at the moment. “My aim is to have a PPP victory in the 2018 election. It’s five years from now, and that’s an extremely long time in politics. It’s a lifetime.”

 

Bilawal has been criticised by several people for running campaigns from the safety of his home and organising a festival which has nothing to do with the resolution of the problems of the masses.

 

“That would be an approach of someone who doesn’t understand the depth behind the project or the scale of the concepts or the reach that this has. So I believe it’s democracy that holds us together, and it’s the democratic system, where culture and heritage are allowed to flourish, where they are not suppressed. There is a shared culture, a shared history that binds us together as nation - and that has not been allowed to happen because of our history of dictatorial rule.” He hoped that Pakistan can reclaim its freedoms from terrorists who hunt down dancers and from their apologists in public office who ban YouTube.

 

“For security reasons and because this is a heritage site we could only have a small number of people here,” he said. The Guardian said that “Pakistan has never seen anything like the political debut of Bilawal Bhutto Zardari” and that he seems set on breaking all the rules on how politics is traditionally done in Pakistan. It was as much political as cultural, the Guardian said about the festival. “The Sindh festival’s slogan, “Preserve, promote, protect”, just happens to have the same initials as the Bhutto family enterprise the Pakistan People’s Party, the now much-diminished political movement co-founded by his grandfather, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.”