The formal baptism of Bilawal Bhutto Zardari as political leader and Chairman of the PPP on the fifth death anniversary of Benazir Bhutto at Garhi Khuda Bakhsh has added a whiff of fresh air to the political landscape of the country; a new face with a new vision and determination. A confident looking Bilawal made an impressive entry into politics through a coherent, logical and morale raising discourse that had the aura and glimpses of the style of her mother and late grandfather Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.The most reassuring part of his speech was the commitment and determination to defend democracy, taking the fight against terrorism and reactionary forces to its logical end and sparing no sacrifice to accomplish the mission bequeathed by her mother. Nobody, not even the staunchest opponents and enemies of the Bhutto legacy, can take issue with the fact that the Bhuttos and PPP are a symbol of resistance against the anti-democractic forces and have kept the flame burning against all odds and adversities. The sacrifices rendered by this party in the cause of democracy are unmatched. The PPP has the distinction of sacrificing its top most leaders and thousands of its workers for defending democracy. The rest of the political entities, arguably, are the beneficiaries of the unrelenting struggle of the party to keep the country on the track, envisioned by the Quaid. It is an irrefutable historic fact that the rightist and reactionary forces in this country have always supported the dictators and played the role of a spoiler by indulging in politics of agitation and coercion. If Pakistan stands at crossroads today, it is because of the machinations of these forces and unimaginative policies pursued by successive dictators. The PPP and its leaders have shown unswerving commitment in nurturing the sapling of democracy; again a ranting reality! Democracy is the only way forward and there are no two opinions about it. Pakistan’s existence and progress as a progressive Islamic state can only be ensured through an uninterrupted democratic process and by keeping the forces of regression at bay. The PPP, as against the rightist and some religious political parties, has a clear-cut stance against terrorism and shown unmitigated commitment to eliminate this menace from the country, whose practitioners took the life of Benazir Bhutto and also pose an existentialist threat to the country. The resolve expressed by Bilawal to defend democracy, fight terrorism and carry forward the legacy of his mother is quite reassuring for the forces of enlightenment and the silent majority who have suffered due to lack of democracy and the phenomenon of terrorism. Equally appreciable is his desire to work with other political forces in the spirit of reconciliation to surmount the threats to the country’s integrity and democracy. It is also hard to contest his remarks about the judiciary trespassing into the domain of the executive and resorting to selective justice. Bilawal’s bitterness in pointing out the indiscretions of the judiciary is not misplaced. His observations and allusions to the repeated and relentless attempts by the anti-democratic forces to destabilise the system during the last four and a half years are also not without substance. Needless to say that the PPP inherited the formidable challenges in the political and economic arena, besides the curse of terrorism. It also had to face the impact of the snowballing economic recession at the international level and the ravaging floods that almost crippled the economy, besides inflicting extensive damage on the infrastructure. It is true that the country went through very hard times and the people had to bear the brunt of these debilitating factors. But it is also a reality that the PPP has taken epoch-making strides in the political and economic arena that will benefit the country in the long run. That performance needs to be judged with reference to the challenges that the PPP inherited, instead of throwing out of context opprobrium at it. What Bilawal said about the political, legislative and economic measures taken by the government are verifiable realities. President Asif Ali Zardari, in his brief address to the mammoth rally, also declared unequivocally that fight against anti-people and anti-democratic elements would continue, and the elections will be held on time for a smooth transition of power. That should be enough to remove the misgivings and rumours about delay in the elections, especially in the backdrop of Dr Tahirul Qadri’s unexpected entry in the arena and the demand to reform the system before holding the elections. There are internationally accepted norms of political behaviour in the democratic polities around the world. Any change required in the system or the constitution is effected through building consensus and then translating it into concrete steps through the processes spelled out in the constitution. If Dr Qadri really thinks that the system needs some changes - despite his vagueness about what kind of reforms are needed - he has the right to win public support by participating in the elections and then on the basis of the public mandate reform the system. However, the coercive method that he has adopted is disruptive in nature and Pakistan has already suffered beyond reckoning due to this brand of politics. People surely look askance at his sudden appearance and the motive, so late in the day. All the political entities, who believe in the continuation of democracy in conformity with the constitutional norms, must support the government in its efforts to hold the elections on time. 

The writer is a freelance columnist.Email: ashpak10@gmail.com