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Sunday, July 1, 2012

The Rookie Chairman

Original Article: Daily Times
Date Published: May 31, 2012

Bilawal may be young and inexperienced, but so far, he speaks of the values and ideals that his slain mother had once embodied. Most youngsters his age would be engaging in everything except politics. Or if they do, they would be following someone else and considering him their sole messiah. However, like his late mother, he is different. As fate has it, someone else writes the script of our lives. His energetic mother was faced with similar circumstances a few decades ago. What a strange coincidence, but as they say, life is full of surprises. The more things change, perhaps, the more they stay the same.

After listening to the youngest, let us say the 'rookie' chairman of the largest political party of Pakistan, one can deduce that hope and optimism are still alive. His haters and detractors call him the heir to the 'ancestral' throne. I beg to differ. Bilawal Bhutto Zardari is no heir, as without the people's will or vote, he cannot move an inch. Above all, without any substance within him or his message, he cannot resonate with the masses. Devoid of real substance, spark and connection with his people, he can perhaps continue his cosy life abroad. He may be an heir to his family, but not to his country. It may be a political dynasty, but without the people's will, it is nothing more than a comfortable nest.

To illustrate my point, Ayub, Yahya and Zia left their heirs too. They tried their luck, hoping to hit the bullseye in the newly found notoriety of theirs, but failed miserably. Why was it such a debacle? Simply speaking, it was a lack of substance and a real fire within. Without that, a leader is unable to reach the most important element of the electorate. Without that connection, no matter what their track record or message may be, people remain indifferent towards them.

Bilawal may be young and inexperienced, but so far, he speaks of the values and ideals that his slain mother had once embodied. His recent visit to the US and various interviews to TV channels give us a glimpse of what he really stands for. People may criticise all of that as a clever media ploy in the US, implying that as always, he is trying to impress the 'real masters'. On the contrary, whatever he has said on multiple channels here is in fact the popular Pakistani narrative. He has maintained the official stand on many US-Pakistan related issues — very understandable in the context of a broader national interest, and yet seen and analysed with immense scepticism by many within Pakistan.

Speaking of Bilawal's rather synchronised lines that he cleverly uttered, I do respectfully take exception. On the recent conviction of Dr Afridi, he repeatedly brought the precedent of Jonathan Pollard into his interviews, which is rather misplaced. Pollard allegedly transferred state secrets to Israel. One may find Dr Afridi's conduct objectionable but to equate that with Pollard's action is erroneous. Of course, it makes perfect sense if Osama bin Laden was in fact considered a 'state secret'. I have argued earlier on this issue at this forum therefore I would refrain from repeating the same lines ('Speaking of Spies', Daily Times, March 29, 2012). Furthermore, Dr Afridi's conviction based on treason and waging war against the state would not hold in any reasonable court of law. Had the Navy Seals who took out bin Laden attacked any military installation in their raid at the Abbottabad house, only then the charge would hold. Again, if we consider the 'lair' where the 'Late Mujahid' lived as a military fortress then I rest.

Next, Bilawal's insistence on the US apologising for the Salala incident has to be viewed more objectively from both sides. At the expense of being called an 'apologist of the US', a 'CIA agent', and a 'traitor' by my critics, I would urge Mr Chairman to give it a second thought. (By the way, people who truly want a gist of that incident when it occurred can Google me and 'Bonn Conference' before awarding me with some additional 'prestigious' titles.) As unfortunate as the incident may be, one has to review the track record. If it was deliberate, as many hyper-patriots want us to believe, then why did it just occur at Salala? Much like drones, why did NATO not continue its flagrant violation to teach Pakistanis some more lessons? Deductive reasoning, which we often lack in our blind passion, would lead us to believe that it was perhaps a misunderstanding on both sides. To move the relationship forward, we have to continue engaging the US in such a diplomatic manner that the apology comes from both sides and we have closure.

On Musharraf, whom Mr Chairman considers responsible for his mother's assassination in part for not providing her adequate security, it may be added that Mr Chairman has resided in the UK and may very well know that both countries do not have an extradition treaty. In light of that grim reality, how can he bring former President Musharraf to Pakistan to answer those charges? If I remember correctly, Pakistan and the UAE signed a Prisoner Extradition Treaty very recently. I think Mr Musharraf enjoys a respectable life there; he would definitely be not imprisoned there. Based on these facts, one may sincerely hope that Mr Musharraf voluntarily comes back home to clear his name of such allegations. The chances though are very slim.

The Chairman demonstrated a praiseworthy quality of confidence in front of many cameras here. He presented the vision of a progressive, democratic and positive Pakistan. On CNN's Wolf Blitzer, there were some nostalgic moments, where Blitzer shared his late mother's interaction with him. From his demeanour and rationale, Bilawal handled it fairly well. Yes, many would call him a 'prince', but to all of them again, neither a prince nor a pauper deserves to lose their mother in the manner that he did. If he has picked up the mission of his slain mother, then h
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