Here’s Why Bilawal Bhutto Is Better Suited Than Maryam Nawaz To Fight For Civilian Supremacy
PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz is being praised these days as some sort of champion for democracy and civilian supremacy. Her fans say she and her father Nawaz Sharif have expressed clarity in their stance against the establishment like no one else. It is being said that her newfound popularity will play a decisive role in the struggle against the incumbent government and the establishment’s interference in politics.
Despite her clear position on the issue, it is wrong to say that no one apart from Maryam Nawaz has spoken truth to power. Leaders of ethnic minority parties such as the Balochistan National Party (BNP), civil rights movement Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM) and other leaders from smaller provinces have been saying the same things about the establishment’s excesses and violation of civil liberties. Yet their voices have always been ignored not just by the state but by urban political analysts as well.
Moreover, it is important to note that Maryam Nawaz’s fight is largely a personal one. Her criticism of the establishment began as her father was wrongfully disqualified and later victimised by the current regime. We must not forget that she had been silent for several months as part of a supposed deal during which her father was allowed to go abroad. I am not suggesting that his exit was part of a deal, but Maryam Nawaz’s silence during those days and her failure to condemn rights violations at the time should be remembered. After the PDM’s formation, we saw a united front and opposition leaders began criticising the government as well as establishment and Nawaz Sharif also named names. But the PDM failed to give space to representatives of smaller provinces. MNA Mohsin Dawar was expelled from the alliance and Maryam Nawaz who according to some is the champion of civilian supremacy did not bat an eye over an elected representative from former FATA being treated in this manner by PDM chief Fazlur Rehman.
Earlier in 2019, she had been silent when Ali Wazir and Mohsin Dawar were behind bars after the Khar Qamar incident in 2019. PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto, on the other hand, kept raising the issue of the two MNAs detention, urging National Assembly speaker Asad Qaiser to issue their production orders. It was Bilawal who ensured that Mohsin Dawar, a member of the PTM, had a seat at the table when PDM was being formed. PML-N had disinvited Dawar from the PDM’s Gujranwala rally. Later at the Karachi jalsa, Dawar was present because PPP had invited him. Inclusion of a representative of the tribal region, which had long been raising voice against the state’s policies, is important because it shows how serious or non serious the opposition alliance is in standing up to the establishment.
Further, Bilawal Bhutto had also lent clear support to the Aurat March several times amid attacks from extremist quarters. Maryam Nawaz, despite being a woman herself, did not offer such open support to the Aurat March. Women reclaiming public space and demanding an end to violence against them that is enabled due to state’s inefficiencies is an important issue over which Maryam Nawaz should have taken a position, but she did not.
Therefore, going by the track record, Bilawal Bhutto is better suited to fight the fight for civilian supremacy. For Maryam Nawaz, it is about her family. If she is assured that the Sharifs can once again achieve the status of the establishment’s favorite, she would certainly back down. Bilawal, however, understands the human rights issues well and knows the importance of solidarity. This is why he has been vocal against human rights abuses and always speaks in favour of citizens who are victimised.
The writer is a Lahore-based journalist.