Interesting question, intriguing also! Complex as it is, a clear cut answer or even a cursory conclusion will merely be half-baked at this stage. Whether Bilawal has, really re-energised himself, or is he just trying to give that impression through his presence in the Punjab, is a subject that needs dispassionate study.
Over the past couple of weeks, he has been in Islamabad, and Peshawar, meeting party people, attempting to lift their sagging morale, or was his exercise mere photo-sessions? Bilawal’s ambition to be in his grand- father’s or martyred mother’s mould deserves appreciation. He has at-least set a goal for himself. Whether he can succeed or end-up in frustration, coming weeks or months alone will show.
He picked southern Punjab as the launching pad for the purpose. Before that he tried to project himself as crusader for the minorities, flying all the way to upper Sindh for the Holi festival of the Hindus. Both were cleverly conceived efforts. Cashing on the discontent in the lower Punjab towns of Bahawalpur, Rahimyarkhan and related localities, can well be rewarding, but perseverance and support from the masses will be decisive.
The young PPP leader, addressed rally near Rahimyarkhan to attack Nawaz and his brother Shahbaz Sharif’’s administration for outlining a plan for farmers, which according to the PPP, had been faulty and in effect dealt a raw deal to poor peasants. The “Kissan package” of prime minister Nawaz Sharif, had invited criticism from Tehrik-i-Insaaf chief Imran Khan also, and now Bilawal jumped on the bandwagon, thinking that the iron was already hot enough to strike. But did either of them achieve what they had hoped to gain. The answer remains in the negative.
Denting an organisation, especially when it is set and saddled firmly, or even trying to imorove its public image would never be easy till such time opponents themselves enjoy complete confidence of the people. It is a gigantic task, demanding unflinching commitment in one’s own self. Those planning to damage the reputation of their rivals, must have a crystal clear image of their own. Neither the PTI, nor the PPP, unfortunately are blessed with these qualities. Their own image is tainted, for the present. Throwing stone at others while living in glass houses is sure to rebound.
Opposing a government, or exploiting its weaknesses is the essence of democracy, a birthright of every citizen, but any such campaign can only be effective if those pointing out these mistakes are themselves clean. In this particular case, it is just the reverse. While the PPP, victim of its own follies, is now battling to survive, Imran party too now is a house. Divided against itself. Both are guilty of shooting themselves in the feet. Their problems are almost identical. The PPP suffered from self-destruction, Asif Zardari, as its leader, alienating from workers and die-hard supporters, and Imran falling prey to his own machinations.
They both pursued policies which have led them to blind alleys. Zardari as leader of a party, enjoying grassroots support, and despite being marginalised by military dictator, late General Ziaul Haq, managed to re-erect the edifice built by its founder, the late Z A Bhutto. Benazir twice came to power on the basis of foundations built by her illustrious father. Zardari, after her martyrdom in 2007, sidelined, for reasons best known to him, all those loyal to party’s basic principles, and now finds him totally isolated.
Imran, like-wise mercilessly dealt with those believing in time-honoured traditions. He not only hurt and insulted men of elevated stature and integrity like former Supreme Court judge, Wajeehuddin, and one of the leading civil servants, Tasleem Noorani. PTI, suffering now from in-fight, will take time to back track from the pit’s edge, where it now finds itself.
Imran was at the peak of his political career in 2003, after a long, and arduous 15 years journey, has been found searching for moorings. He can hardly devote time to campaign against Nawaz when he is up against a heat with his own people, leading lights included.
Zardari is sitting abroad after giving unguarded statements, and, instead of coming back to re-organise and lead the party, has chosen to rely on an inexperienced son, whose hold on politics still remains in infancy. It has been two years now since he was rather prematurely thrown into the arena resembling to those meant for a bull fight in Spain. Mere change of nomenclature—Matadors in the European State, and politics in Pakistan-- would hardly make much difference. For Bilawal, it was like journey into unknown. In many ways, it has remained so for him even now. He still has to learn the tricks of the trade. His advisers are also those whose own record is full of blemish. People with blots on their career are now his patrons and mentors. How can he be expected to instill a new life into a party, which is almost like a dead horse. Yes, there are sincere and dedicated cadres like Raza Rabbani, senator Taj Haider, Senator and former ambassador Sherry Rehman. But are they allowed to play the role they wanted for themselves? That question needs instant answer, if People’s Party genuinely wishes to resurrect itself.
Bilawal, is well educated, possesses impressive personality, delivers hard hitting speeches, but reading from texts has mostly been a handicap for politicians. Can the young Bhutto, who actually is Zardari, overcome that drawback, and be a genuine firebrand speaker, a cast in which her mother in her life time, was trying to mould him in. This is still a big poser.
Lastly, something about the rampant corruption and mal-administration in Sindh—the power base of the PPP. Bilawal’s repeated complaints and suggestions to rebuild its new image of being a model for good governance, has, and perhaps for a long time to come, will remain elusive. The lad has merely been day-dreaming, but his desire for lifting it from the firmly entrenched stupidity, ought to be admired. Whether he can succeed, in realising the dream, is again a million dollar question. The lust for glitter from some of his own close family members continues uninterrupted. Bilawal, even if he is desirous of changing the head of the Sindh administration, will have to wait for a long time, for, change would mean a rebellion, a role he is still unprepared or incapable to play, or may , in all probability, will not be allowed to play. Then what is the future of the PPP? That question will continue to haunt analysts for a considerably long time to come.