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Pakistan Needs Leaders Like Bilawal To Steer It Out Of This National Crisis

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Rahim Nasar argues that Bilawal has adopted the clearest stance on PTM and a number of other key challenges faced by Pakistan today. He says that the PPP chairman has the ability to ‘ensure political stability, ethnic harmony, strong democracy and a sovereign parliament’.

Economic problems, rise in ethnic nationalism against government policies, prevailing insecurity and political instability have brought remarkable shifts in the political situation of the country. The rise of Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM), involvement of the establishment in politics, upsurge in NAB-ism against opposition parties, biased role of judiciary, persistent threats to parliament, 18th amendment, democracy and constitution, complete media censorship, shift in anti-establishment narrative of PML-N and Maryam Nawaz’s focus on gaining political sympathies via social media and the rising democratic voice of Bilawal Bhutto are the core features of our politics today.

The parliament of Pakistan has lost its supremacy. 18th amendment is also facing challenge at least from some elements within the PTI-led government. Establishment also wants the reintroduction of 58-2(B) in order to pave the way for presidential form of government.

North Waziristan tragedy where security personnel allegedly killed more than ten PTM protesters will open a gateway to insecurity and ethnic tensions in the country. ISPR DG blamed PTM for the attack on a check-post in retaliation to which the security forces had to open fire but soon video clips became viral on social media proving that military personnel were firing on protesters directly. The authenticity of those videos is yet to be determined but Pakistani media too played a vicious role; the entire media accused PTM of firing on security personnel. And the attack was covered as a terrorist attack on the military.

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This is dangerous. One of the key factors responsible for the creation of Bangladesh was misreporting of the facts by West Pakistani media. Some politicians also favoured ISPR’s narrative and blamed PTM of terrorism.

Meanwhile, Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N), the biggest opposition party, seems to have completely given up on Nawaz Sharif’s anti-establishment narrative. Nawaz Sharif’s narrative categorically criticised the establishment for direct involvement in judicial and political affairs, and controlling the foreign and interior policies. The narrative received unprecedented popularity in Punjab, but the divisions within PML-N, imprisonment of Nawaz Sharif and abundance of pro-establishment players inside the party weakened it considerably. PML-N’s top leadership, primarily Nawaz Sharif’s younger brother Shehbaz Sharif and his likeminded colleagues, are principally responsible for this deviation.

PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari successfully hijacked Nawaz Sharif’s narrative and is emerging as the leading advocate of civilian supremacy in the country. Bilawal’s upright stance has helped Pakistan People’s Party to somewhat regain its lost image and prestige in Pakistani political sphere. Bilawal’s recent ‘Iftar Party’ in honour of the opposition leaders in Islamabad further added strength to his role in the national politics.

His support to PTM on its five-point charter of demands and recent North Waziristan tragedy is more significant in this regard. Bilawal categorically refused to accept the one-sided reports that PTM had attacked a military check-post. He remains the only leader who is courageously supporting PTM’s just demands and asking the government and establishment to listen to Pashtun grievances.

He explicitly expressed his reservations on violation of human rights in Pashtun belt, missing persons, unlawful detainment of Pashtun activists and genuine demands of Pashtuns under the 1973 constitution of Pakistan.

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Bilawal Bhutto’s opposition of extending military courts’ tenure is very obvious. His stance on military courts and banned outfits is very coherent and logical in its nature. Prior to this issue, Bilawal Bhutto clearly stated that PPP shall not support any move that would favour extension of military courts. He called it unconstitutional in total, an act which is against the real essence of the constitution and parliament.

PML-N seems unclear and indecisive on the extension of military courts. Family divisions, differences among top party leadership and Shehbaz Sharif’s soft corner for establishment are factors behind PML-N’s position on military courts.

In the same way, Bilawal’s position on banned outfits is very clear. Bilawal called these groups a threat to national security and stability. It is clear that support to banned groups on governmental level has mutilated Pakistan’s international image. The UN Security Council has recently passed a resolution where Pakistani citizen Maulana Masood Azhar was declared a global terrorist.

North Waziristan tragedy is just the tip of the iceberg. Support to banned outfits and militarisation of Pakistani society have resulted in insecurity, social intolerance, political instability, governance failure, violation of the constitution and persistent threats to supremacy of the parliament. The entire Pakistani system seems tarnished and unreliable. PTM must be listened to and negotiated with. Pakistan needs democratic leaders like Bilawal who can ensure political stability, ethnic harmony, strong democracy and a sovereign parliament.

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