The challenge ahead
BILAWAL Bhutto Zardari has spoken as a politician on his mother’s fifth death anniversary, marking the start of an impatient discussion. As happens in political dynasties, the young man is not being compared so much with his opponents as with those from whom he has inherited his politics. Many found traces of his mother’s voice in his Garhi Khuda Bakhsh speech on Thursday. This may have created sufficient empathy to wish for an ideal world where the young are not required to enter the political minefield so early or as the only option. On the other hand, remarkable are the analyses of known Bhutto-haters pontificating that Bilawal is not a patch on his mother or grandfather. The critics who had in the past dismissed the Bhutto brand have had a change of heart. They are now saying the new generation is not worthy enough to own that brand. Theirs is a hurried verdict on a career that is yet to begin.
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari will need time and will have to struggle hard. For starters, in the changed circumstances, sympathy alone cannot take a politician very far. The PPP chairman would do well to identify areas different from his father’s clannish style of politics and on which his party needs to focus. Those whose support he seeks are restless and will not be satisfied with brave resolutions to tackle the militants or the proud mentions of sacrifices. He could review the journey of other dynastic politicians in the region, such as Rahul Gandhi in India, to chart a course that is truly in sync with today’s realities and not a vain continuation of family tradition. For that, he will have to outgrow the coaching that was visible in his address and show that he himself has the potential to lead one of Pakistan’s major political parties.