LAHORE – Despite commanding all respect at home and outside as Chairperson PPP, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari’s company with his father and head of the state, Asif Ali Zardari in official visits abroad is not leaving a good impression on intelligentsia and politicians.
The case in point is the recent visit of Mr Bilawal to Tehran with the Pakistani delegation to attend the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) meeting, although he previously accompanied his father to the official visits of China and Saudi Arabia.
It could be a political grudge or a genuine reason to criticize that various politicians, in an interaction, were not pleased with Bilawal accompanying his father and PPP Co-Chairperson, Asif Ali Zardari when the latter undertook official foreign visits as President of Pakistan which involved a lot of secrecies and a head of the state was legally bound not to divulge to anyone unless the national interest permitted so. The fact is, young Bilawal, is wielding a lofty position on the political plain but officially he is no-body for sitting with the president, in the official meetings with the foreign head of the state and dignitaries during the visits. However it is quite justified if the host state also invites Bilawal Bhutto Zardari to honour him as Chairperson of the largest political party in Pakistan which also boasts of the history of upholding democracy.  Taking along spouse, son or daughter on an official visit abroad has been a common practice rather a part of the official protocol, yet hardly their presence during the official talks or state to state business is seen valuable although they may have something entertaining on the sidelines.
Most of the people say that a head of state takes his child or children to build their confidence and groom them in the international politics and affairs but from a distance from the official business. Benazir Bhutto was politically trained and brought up by his father Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and her company with Bhutto to Simla after 1971 debacle is a glaring example. Although she made many official tours with her father but she was never seen in official business as a matter of top level secrecy governing the state interest.
PML-N General Secretary Iqbal Zafar Jhagra, speaking on the subject, right-away blamed the PPP for not adhering to the constitution and the law in any matter and connected the issue at point with this alleged routine of the PPP. “A party which does not obey the Supreme Court orders cannot be expected to observe other things which are in its purview”: Jhagra, however, had no objection to Bilawal’s travelling with his father for an official tour if the host country had invited him too. He said, “It is not reasonable to go as an unwanted guest and the politicians concerned must take care of this aspect. “The prevailing impression of such visits is to train and groom the offspring on foreign matters,” he was of the view.
Eminent academician Dr Mugheesuddin Sheikh said, “In our political system ethics are hardly followed. What Zardari is doing about Bilawal by taking him to foreign visits, is quite similar to what Bhutto did with Benazir to train her in politics. Such visits may be given tolerated provided they are performed not on the state expense”. Mughees said there was nothing wrong with a private visit, like the one Zardari undertook to Ajmer Sharif to pay homage to Hazrat Moeenuddin Chishti (RA) with his kids also accompanying him. But, in case of an official visit, many objections could be raised where an unofficial person was sitting in official meetings. “Pakistan is unique for providing political training to sons or daughters,” he added. He said there were no hard and fast international norms to allow or check a head of the state for taking his son with him to the official gathering as such the principles have to be set by the visiting dignitary himself in this regard.
Talking on the subject, central PTI leader Hamid Khan disapproved of practice that a head of state is taking along his son on official visits on state expenses and added it appears even more ‘ridiculous’ that the son is also attending the official meetings. Terming it a clear violation of the state decorum that a private person is made privy to official matters and decisions, he said taxpayers money cannot used on a person who is not officially entitled to that.