Where are politics in Pakistan headed? Will the masses continue to listen to the rhetoric of the politicians well past their prime and believe in their promises? Do they have any choice?
Until a few years back, there was no one else to turn to but the same old faces who would contest elections time after time and would be returned to the parliament in their traditional constituencies because they were the only people on the horizon. It appears things are changing now and a new generation of politicians is entering the arena. The promises made by the older guard are becoming outdated and there is no public confidence left in them. The people are also wiser. They are more aware of their rights and wish to use their votes more judiciously because they strongly believe that they cast their votes rather imprudently in the past.
Openness in the media initiated by General Pervez Musharraf has played the role of a catalyst in this context. It is also a reality that more young people have joined the electorate in Pakistan and they will not exercise their vote unless they are not sure that they are voting for the right man or woman. They know that the old crop of politicians don’t come up to their standards because they have never delivered.
That brings in younger politicians who are now considered by their seniors to have acquired enough maturity to contest elections at the national, provincial and local levels. There are many prominent faces among the new lot. There is Bilawal Bhutto, the son of Benazir Bhutto and Asif Zardari. He may earlier have conveyed the impression that he was merely the son of an outstanding mother and represented a continuation of the Bhutto legacy. He was not considered to have much of a political acumen and people generally thought that he had been propped up by his father and made her chairman of the PPP while Zardari presented himself as co-chairman to run the affairs of the Party. To them, Bilawal was only a figurehead who did everything at this father’s bidding.
It appears things are changing now and a new generation of politicians in Pakistan is entering the arena.Syed Jawaid Iqbal
It has been noticed of late that Bilawal Bhutto is emerging as a person of concrete political views and it is said in some circles that he does not see eye to eye with his father on many issues. There may be a long distance for him to cover in becoming a true leader of the people but he has the advantage of the Bhutto legacy and he can use it to his advantage rather than letting his father further push Sindh into backwardness through his corrupt practices.
It is expected that if Bilawal is allowed to pursue his own political bent instead of continuing to perform in his father’s shadow, he may come up with new ideas that would benefit the people. If this happens, the fortunes of the Pakistan People’s Party are sure to revive and it could be put back on the rails as a genuinely national party instead of its current status as a party of only Sindh.
Bilawal’s two sisters, Bakhtawar and Asifa could have taken the political route too but they have not showed any inclination so far.
The next Sharif?
In the Punjab, two young people are emerging in politics and could hold promise for the future. One is Maryam Nawaz, the daughter of Nawaz Sharif and the other is Hamza Sharif, the son of Shahbaz Sharif. Both are first cousins but they have a lot of room to be groomed individually and emerge as heirs to their respective fathers’ political legacies.
Maryam has already been groomed by her father in politics and has displayed a rare understanding of both provincial and national issues. She began her political career in 2012 when she was in charge of Nawaz Sharif’s 2013 election campaign. She also headed the BISP (Benazir Income Support Programme) for some time after her father became the Prime Minister.
Nawaz wants to see Maryam as the new ‘Benazir’ of Pakistan and has therefore provided her all opportunities as Bhutto did for Benazir. He took her to Simla, included her in meetings with Indira Gandhi and made her in charge of the India Desk at the foreign office. She also hosted a current Affairs TV programme called ‘Encounter’ in the early 70s.
After Nawaz Sharif came to power, Maryam was appointed chairperson of the Youth Programme. She also ran the prime minister’s media cell. She became more politically active in 2017 after her father was disqualified by the Supreme Court and successfully campaigned for her mother, Kulsoom Nawaz, for the NA-120 by-elections.
Maryam Nawaz holds promise if she crafts a separate political route and manages to steer clear from the politics of her father. What is expected from her is leadership that would appeal to the common Pakistani and not the feudals.
Hamza Shahbaz has so far played a political role in Punjab but so firm is his father’s grip on provincial politics that Hamza is not recognized as a political leader of consequence. He has shown a clearer understanding of issues and, if given more latitude he is likely to emerge as a leader not hemmed in by the narrow views of outdated politicians.
The political legacy of the Gandhi family having been passed on to the new generation is also visible in India but only future developments will reveal the true potential.
President & CEO of perception management company, CMC, Syed Jawaid Iqbal is a well-known author and public relations guru. Karachi-based Jawaid Iqbal has represented Pakistan at several regional and international forums and has been Chairman, Pakistan Chapter of the Colombo-based South Asia Media Association. He is associated with several social welfare organizations and contributes to leading newspapers. He has also presented TV talk shows on current affairs. In 2003 he founded the Society for Global Moderation – a private-sector think tank, strengthening tolerance, inter-faith harmony and democracy. His book “On Record” was released in 2004. His twitter handle is @Jayeye49.