Tuesday, March 26, 2019
Sheikh Rasheed, known since his advent in politics as an HMV of the deep state, continues to be a bull in the china shop. He is known for various services extended to the powers that be whenever they needed to demolish any politician who the establishment dreaded as a threat. Since his services are varied in nature much as the non-state actors or strategic interests, he is a most valued weapon in the secret armoury of the powers that be.
Politics indeed makes for strange bedfellows. Some years back, he served as a refined Gullu Butt in the government of Prime Minister (PM) Nawaz Sharif. Later on, after receiving marching orders he jumped on President General Pervez Musharraf’s bandwagon and served him well as the most obedient servant to his regime. Briefly, he came into acquaintance with Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chief Imran Khan when he was flirting with GPM hoping to be appointed as prime minister. His short affair with the dictator and his HMV did not leave a good impression on the future prime minister of Pakistan who in a television interview sharing with the Sheikh, told him on his face that he was such a third rate person that he would not even keep him as his peon. Their shouting match would have ended in a fist fight but for the paucity of time and intervention of saner elements around.
One would say perhaps that was Imran Khan’s brief moment of truth when he correctly sized up the heavyweight from Lal Haveli in Rawalpindi. Unfortunately the type of free-for-all maadar-pidar azad Dharna politics that Khan introduced in 2014 in collaboration with the powers that be, readily accepted Rashid’s posting in his fold. The gutter language used in the dharnas, threats hurled at political opponents, undermining of Parliament-all seemed to be the contribution of this heavyweight mastermind. There must be decent people in PTI and I am sure Khan too has some regrets about this.
Pakistani politics — ever since extra-constitutional interventions and engineering of politicians — have been converted into a cesspool of filth. Remember Field Marshal Ayub Khan’s time when then Foreign Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto parted his company with him over his surrender of Pakistani gains in the battlefield to Indian Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri in the conference table in Tashkent. Bhutto was instantly declared anti-state and an Indian agent. The rightist media, egged on by the Ministry of Information, hurled baseless charges against Bhutto and his family.
Sheikh Rasheed’s threats — orchestrated by General Pervez Musharraf’s administration — against twice-elected Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto ultimately ended in her tragic assassination, which ultimately eliminated the political leader the establishment dreaded most
During General Zia’s military rule, a vicious and venomous anti-Bhutto tirade became the order of the day. In subsequent years when Sheikh Rasheed became a powerful barking voice, he was assigned to malign Benazir Bhutto who had emerged as the sole spokesperson for the democratic rights of the people of Pakistan. During Musharraf’s tenure when he was a minister Sheikh Rasheed accused her of being an Indian agent for making a keynote speech at the Confederation of Indian Business in Delhi in which she had pleaded out of box settlement of Kashmir dispute without prejudice to the UN Resolutions, in keeping with the wishes of the people, opening of trade and massive confidence-building measures including visa relaxation. More or less in the same context, General Musharraf offered to India a solution to the Kashmir dispute under his much publicised and lauded four-point formula.
Sheikh Rasheed’s threats — orchestrated by General Pervez Musharraf’s administration — against twice-elected Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto ultimately ended in her tragic assassination, which ultimately eliminated the political leader the establishment dreaded most. In this gruesome background the nation should not take lightly the threats to the life of PPP Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto Zardari that are being constantly hurled by Khan’s own Gullu Butt. Indeed, PPP workers would lay down their lives to protect their leader at any cost and I am sure those second in command in the party, too would do their utmost to safeguard their chairperson.
One can understand the profound concern expressed by his sister Bakhtawar Bhutto Zardari in a Twitter drawing attention to the Federal Minister for Railways Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed’s direct death threats against Bilawal. Bakhtawar is absolutely right when she says ‘it is nothing new that extremist right wingers are threatening a Bhutto, but it is disgusting that a cabinet member is giving an open death threat to someone whose entire family was killed.’
Instead of launching a campaign against Sheikh Rasheed, the PPP leadership should lodge an FIR against the Railway Minister and also file a complaint before the Supreme Court. PPP shall have to do something more concrete than its leaders are planning to do to stop Sheikh’s vicious bark before he bites. Party leaders must wake up and should not take lightly death threats by the Railway Minister to the Party Chairman and without wasting time in thinking, proceed against the Sheikh legally. Could there be a more clearer threat than Sheikh Rasheed’s — in response to Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari’s press conference in the Sindh Assembly building, Sheikh Rasheed tweeted: “Bilawal should play carefully in politics otherwise he may be eliminated”. These words are more or less the same that were conveyed by Musharraf to martyred Benazir Bhutto when she announced her historic return to Pakistan.
The rising crescendo of Bilawal Bhutto’s popularity in the Parliament, his leadership surge globally and his saner approach to domestic issues seem to be causing sleepless nights to the engineered politicians and those involved in their selection rather than election. His meeting with former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in Kot Lakhpat Jail to inquire about his failing health being given different colours by various quarters-whatever-has definitely brought about a whiff of fresh air with hope. Indeed, it is time to revive and revamp Charter of Democracy signed in 2006 between martyred Benazir Bhutto and Mian Nawaz as the solid foundation to repair the badly mauled edifice of democracy damaged by extra-constitutional forces. Importance of Charter of democracy could be imagined from the fact that it was nationally recognised as the most important document after the Constitution of 1973.
People’s Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari on Wednesday apparently denounced his party’s political rivals by sharing phrases from renowned Urdu poet Habib Jalib’s Dastoor.
Bilawal rebutted the accusations against him and his father Asif Ali Zardari in the fake bank accounts case on Twitter.
He said, “Main bhee kha’if naheen takhta e daar say, Main bhee Mansoor hoon, keh do aghyaar say, Kyun daraatay ho zindaan ki divar say, zulm ki baat ko, jehel ki raat ko, main naheen maanta, main naheen jaanta (Like audacious Mansoor I declare, I have no dread of the hangman’s plank, why do you fear the prison walls? These acts of cruelty, these nights in jail, I will not accept, I will not condone).”
Both Zardari and Bilawal were summoned by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) for interrogation into the matter. A large number of party workers moved to the federal capital on the party’s instructions to express solidarity with them.
MARCH 20, 2019)
It is a political gamble as young PPP leader, who was first launched about three years ago, when he made a fiery speech at a public meeting in Karachi opposite Mazar-e-Quaid, as he is trying to bring people on the street perhaps, too early, when the government has not even completed its first year in power and apparently looked strong.
Secondly, it’s a political risk as party was still struggling to get public response outside Sindh. While he will certainly get responsive crowd during his journey from Karachi to Larkana, the real test will come in the next phase when he will take route from Karachi to Pindi, next month or in May.
In his first-ever ‘train journey’, Bilawal, who in the past had travelled by train with his mother, former premier Benazir Bhutto as a young kid, will now be watched by both Opposition and the ruling party. It will also be a test whether this journey will remain under the shadow of his father and former president Asif Ali Zardari or will he try to go on his own. Most important part of his journey would be his ‘message’. If his speeches revolve around NAB cases he will only vindicate Imran Khan’s criticism on both Bilawal and Maryam Nawaz for trying to save their ‘fathers’. If Bilawal will focus on people’s problems, he will also have to defend what his party’s own government had done in Sindh or elsewhere. Important will be the way forward. Can he come out with any counter-narrative and promise good governance in Sindh instead of trying to defend the ‘historic wrong’.
The PTI government on the other hand sees this move from Bilawal as a movement to protect ‘corrupt’. “Mal Bachao movement will fail,” Federal Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said. Most of them will be in jail in the next few weeks or in two to three months, he added.
The PPP and the PML-N and other Opposition parties were still not on ‘one page’ over making any move to destabilise the government at the Centre or in Punjab. However, talks were under way between them in a bid to reach a consensus. Former president Asif Ali Zardari met JUI –F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman, who will be leading MMA’s ‘million march’ to Islamabad in a month’s time.
However, the Opposition stands completely divided when it comes to action against outlawed Jihadi outfits. While the PPP and the PML-N both agreed on action against organisations like Jaish-e-Mohammed and Jamaatud Daawa, the MMA, comprising Jamaat-e-Islami, JI, JUI-F and others have different viewpoint. Sources said the PPP fears that government in the name of accountability will use the NAB and other agencies against them as they have already arrested some of its leaders. Some critics believe that it is too early to challenge the government as the timing of the move does not suits the Opposition and they may not get a good response. The move can be a good exercise for political mobilisation and it will be interesting to watch what Bilawal will say in his speeches and what programme the PPP will give.
During his journey, Bilawal will stay in the hometown of Bhuttos, till April 4, when he is expected to announce party’s future course of action on the 40th death anniversary of party founder Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. Party sources said the PPP chairman will lead another ‘train march’ from Karachi to Pindi, but the final decision will be taken at the party’s central executive committee meeting.
The PTI government is confident that the Opposition would not be able to pose any serious challenge and fears no threat. Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi has invited Bilawal Bhutto and other Opposition leader for consultation on National Action Plan and for a joint strategy to cope with the challenge of tackling outlawed ‘Jihadi outfits’ against whom Bilawal has been very vocal and not satisfied with government action.
“Bilawal is a leader of an important political party. If he has reservations or not satisfied with the kind of action we have taken so far, I invite him and even ready to meet him on implementation of the NAP,” Qureshi told journalists Sunday.
However, government’s more vocal team led by Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry and Railways Minister Sh Rashid believe Bilawal’s train march is an attempt to save Zardari and his wealth. “PPP’s train has already derailed and may not be able to come on the track again,” Fawad told me.
Bilawal will leave Karachi by train at around 11 am today from Cantt Railway Station, the venue from where his grandfather Zulfikar Ali Bhutto had launched the movement against former president and military dictator Field Marshal Ayub Khan in the 60s. His mother Benazir Bhutto had also used ‘train march’ from this very railway station.However, politics has changed with the passage of time and although the PPP local leaders tried to underplay the ‘train journey’ as any formal protest campaign, the fact remains that about 1,000 workers would accompany the party chairman on the special train. “PPP will launch the train march from Karachi to Pindi by next month, party chairman has taken this route as airspace of Sukkur was still closed,” PPP leader Waqar Mehdi said.
But the PPP has given a call in Karachi, and asked workers to reach Cantt Railway Station by 9 am. Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah, former CM Syed Qaim Ali Shah, former leader of the Opposition Khursheed Shah and others would accompany Bilawal in the train march. Bilawal will address the party workers at different railway stations and will make a stopover and spend a night at Nawabshah before leaving for Larkana next morning. The PPP sources said Bilawal can announce countrywide movement during his speech on April 4, on the 40th death anniversary of ZAB.
It will also test as how prepared is the party for any anti-government movement particularly in case some of the central party leaders could be arrested on the alleged charges of corruption including chairman himself, Co-chairman and former president Asif Ali Zardari, his sister Faryal Talpur, Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah (who has appeared before NAB Monday) and others while some were already in jail like Sindh Assembly Speaker Agha Siraj Durrani and former minister Sharjeel Memon.