Wednesday August 17, 2022

Aseefa enters politics

December 19, 2020

Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto’s assassination had left the whole nation in tears and even the global community in shock. Her legacy left a deep footprint in the landscape of Pakistani politics as countless miss SMBB in these times of political chaos, national disunity and also while we are in dire pursuit of a true leader. She continues to motivate women, especially the marginalized.

Today, with the leadership of Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, who brought in almost a dozen different political parties together through the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) – giving us all renewed hope. And then the sight of a young woman – who looks much like the late SMBB – entering the political landscape of Pakistan, has brought in more hope among the progressive voices in the country. That young woman leader is no other than SMBB’s youngest daughter – Aseefa Bhutto Zardari, who shares a striking resemblance with her mother’s persona and poise.

During her maiden speech at the PDM Multan Jalsa, many had to rub their eyes to differentiate between Aseefa and her later mother. Pakistan still remembers the historical address of SMBB in Lahore, 1986 and the same Pakistan witnessed her zeal and charisma in her daughter’s speech. Aseefa indeed triggered memories of her mother and the Bhutto family in a very powerful way. She was not only fearless in criticising the PTI government’s ineptitude which has left the nation in doldrums, but also spoke with grace – just like SMBB.

SMBB entered the Pakistani political landscape by playing a crucial role in the Movement for the Restoration of Democracy (MRD. Today, with illiberal values rampant throughout the country, young Aseefa has officially started her career by participating in the PDM platform.

Aseefa formally joining the PPP platform is not a surprising development at all. Her maternal grandfather – Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto – had also groomed SMBB to enter politics at a very grim time for politics and as well as for the Bhutto family. There is no doubt that difficult times have always promoted the members of the Bhutto family to enter the mainstream political landscape of Pakistan.

It is also important to point out that Aseefa had already been involved in numerous progressive programmes in Pakistan. She is not only Pakistan’s ambassador for polio eradication but was also the first Pakistani child to receive the polio vaccine in the country. With polio cases on the rise today, we need leaders like Aseefa to come forward and advocate for its eradication. Moreover, she has been vocal about promoting animal rights, in a country where little emphasis is given to this neglected topic.

In Pakistan, there is an urgent need for women to become policymakers and come into the spotlight through the political platform. A new United Nations (UN) Women study shows that around 60 percent of women do not participate in politics due to fear of violence. Women must break the glass ceiling in order to join the public and political sphere. Aseefa joining the mainstream politics is an example for every young girl – that they too can come forward and make a difference.

In the Pakistan of the 1980s, when hyper-masculinity was rampant, SMBB took on politics on her own terms. She even showed that ‘women can have it all’ by giving birth while also being the prime minister; becoming the first prime minister to give birth while being in office.

Let’s not forget that Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has been quite vocal about empowering women in the political realm of Pakistan. During the Gilgit-Baltistan elections this year, when the PPP’s Sadia Danish was denied basic electoral rights by the PTI government, Bilawal was quick to respond and assist her. The PPP is the only political party that has always been clear about empowering women from every walk of life.

Aseefa has the same skills set of mass mobilisation and connecting with the local masses as SMBB. With her articulate style, she certainly has the ability to play a significant role in Pakistani politics. At a time when the country is facing predicaments of unprecedented scale and nature, the youngest member of the Bhutto family is a ray of hope. Aseefa’s rise will be one to watch with close attention.

The writer is a member of the Sindh Assembly.