The Inheritance of Loss

Benazir BhuttoThe assassination of Pakistan’s revolutionary woman, Benazir Bhutto, left the world in shock and peril towards the future of Pakistan. As the first female leader in the Muslim world and one of the greatest proponents of democracy in the region, the loss of Bhutto is one that has brought startling effects worldwide. The Harvard and Oxford educated daughter of the former Pakistani PM, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, had all the ingredients for a successful leader as well as massive popular support. So who could possibly fit her shoes?

It’s no surprise that when looking for a new leader for the PPP Pakistanis looked within Bhutto’s family and selected her son Bilawal to be their next leader. The 19- year-old will become the third leader of the 40-year-old center-left party, one of Pakistan’s most powerful. Bilawal will follow his grandfather, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, who founded the PPP in 1967, led Pakistan as Prime Minister for four years in the mid 1970s and was hanged in 1979 by a military government, and Benazir, who took over from her father and was just recently killed at the peak of the political change in Pakistan. Bilawal was born in September 1988, nearly three months before his mother was elected Prime Minister for the first time. After Benazir and her children went into exile in the late 1990s, the family split their time between London and Dubai, where Bilawal attended the Rashid School for Boys, serving as Vice President of the school’s student council. In 2007, he enrolled at Oxford, where both his grandfather and his mother studied. A 2004 profile of Bilawal in the respected Pakistani daily newspaper Dawn said the teenager liked target-shooting, swimming, horseback riding and squash, and regretted being away from Pakistan because it meant he played less of cricket. An attachment to the country indeed!The decision to go with Bilawal appears to have come after his father turned down the job in deference to the slain Benazir’s expressed wishes. Although the party’s deputy leader and longtime Benazir loyalist, Mukhdoom Amin Fahim is likely to become the prime minister, assuming the party wins a majority in parliament, Bilawal would take over as the parliamentary leader once he finishes his studies and once he has more experience. A freshman at Oxford University, Bilawal seems hardly ready to tackle a chaotic Pakistan ravaged by riots, extremism and despotic rule among other things that even his more seasoned predecessors were hardly able to quell.

A 19-year-old school kid has been given priority over a seasoned guy like Amin Fahim. What led PPP to make such a decision? It is basically the hard core of the PPP that rallies around and attaches itself to the House of Bhutto. It is but obvious that they have stuck to the legacy of Bhutto and without that legacy, they are nobody. It’s the hunger for power, which has led them to take decisions so quickly their decision shows how democratic they present themselves to be. Do they mean there is no seasoned politician in the party who can take the position or is it that only someone who has a suffix of Bhutto is allowed to take over? Democratic leaders leave ideologies, not wills. This shows the true side of PPP, that democracy begins at home and the way PPP is being run, it clearly indicates that democracy is the last thing on their mind; it’s the power they want and nothing else!

On the contrary, while Pakistan is under no immediate threat of a breakup, the presence of a Bhutto at the head of the country’s main opposition party might prove to be a reassuring sight to its supporters and the people of Pakistan. Indeed, the PPP is the one party in Pakistan that draws significant support from across the nation. And for the heir appointed or rather who’s taken over, Pakistan can only keep hopes for their future in the common belief –‘the responsible young are going to lead the future!’ Well, the youngest ‘Leader’ of Pakistan only reassures them by stating, “Democracy is the best revenge!”

Tania Gupta