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An open letter to Mr Zardari

The Express Tribune 2019-02-10 09:24:17

'Bilawa­l would make a much better fighte­r for the cause of democr­acy and progre­ssive values in the countr­y'

The writer is recipient of the James A Wechsler Award for International Reporting and a graduate of Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism. He tweets @Mbilallakhani

Hiding beneath the all-enveloping burqa of democracy, you continue to hold your political party and the country hostage to your governance in Sindh or lack thereof. It’s one thing to be incompetent or engage in mismanagement, it’s another to argue that calling you out for bad governance is going to undo Pakistan’s shaky democracy. This is the party of Bhutto and Benazir. Why’re you using their legacy to cover your shady tracks?

The PPP is one of the most result-driven opposition parties in Pakistan’s history. Benazir Bhutto was the face of the opposition that led to the downfall of two of the most menacing military dictators in the country, Zia and Musharraf. Instead of serving as a strong opposition party at the centre today, against what you claim is a selected prime minister, you’re using your chips to negotiate a safe exit for yourself rather than keep this government on its toes.

Pakistan has two opposition leaders today. The first, jo metro sai baz na aya, is in jail. The second, perhaps the best opposition leader in Pakistan since Benazir, sits in the Prime Minister House today and occasionally takes notice of gas price increases his cabinet okays. This is theatre of the absurd. My point being, the Pakistani people deserve a real opposition party. And the PPP isn’t snoozing on the job. It’s actively looking the other way so it can score a deal that can erase its acts of omission and commission.

You force progressives and pro-democracy activists to act as the carpet, under which you can brush all your real and perceived sins. That’s because the PPP is one of the few mainstream voices which still argues for a liberal and progressive Pakistan. How much longer can we look the other way as you play us like a fiddle, while interior Sindh burns?

No sir, the jig is up. Unlike Bhutto and Benazir, history will not judge you kindly. You are not the poster boy of democracy nor is democracy threatened if you leave the system. Democracy is threatened by the PPP and Bilawal being held hostage to gross negligence by you in Sindh. Let Bilawal lead the party. Let him dump your friends running the party as quickly as he can.

You argue the establishment wants a minus-one formula to punish you for the crime of being a democrat. When Benazir argued for democracy, Pakistan rose to defend her. Even those who didn’t like her, including Nawaz Sharif, were the first to mourn her death and arrive at the hospital. When you cry wolf, no one will rise to your defence. And that’s on you, not the establishment.

As someone born and raised in Karachi, I don’t want the PTI to overthrow your government in Sindh through horse trading or other funny business. I want Bilawal to stage a coup within the PPP. Pakistan needs a strong PPP to deliver in Sindh and serve as opposition at the centre. Bilawal gives great speeches, which as Imran Khan’s journey has proven, is the only thing you need to make a great opposition leader. As far as governance goes, I can’t imagine Bilawal’s leadership to be worse than Usman Buzdar, as long as he gets rid of daddy’s friends.

Yes, it’s true, I can criticise Zardari to my heart’s content. But I can’t criticise those who must not be criticised. When you want to know who holds the real power in a room, you think about those who you can’t speak up against. That much is true. But it doesn’t help that the man who wants to lead the fight against them is this flawed.

Bilawal would make a much better fighter for the cause of democracy and progressive values in the country. He’s your son Mr Zardari, stop eating into his inheritance. Give him wings and fade away into the distance or better yet, your penthouse in New York City.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 10th, 2019.

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