One of the most interesting developments in recent times came when Bilawal Bhutto Zardari entered politics. It might well be an entry to remember, for it was as Co-Chairman of the PPP, which presently holds office in the Centre and two provinces, as well as being a partner in a third, as well as son of the incumbent President. However, there are a couple of caveats. First, his language. His command over the Urdu language should not have evoked so much praise. That it did means that he has an image problem. Second, I’m sure he would like to have his mother rather than her party. He was born to her just before she became Prime Minister, and was introduced to politics on the occasion of her fifth death anniversary. I’m sure he would have preferred to have her around, and not to be Co-Chairman of her party. She too had become head of her party because of her father’s sudden removal from the scene, by hanging, not assassination. And Bilawal should not think just because he is young, he will be enough to lead the PPP in the next election. The election will provide the answer, but his father may well have damaged the party beyond repair. When Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, the President’s father-in-law and Bilawal’s maternal grandfather, was hanged, and his widow and daughter took over the chairmanship as Co-Chairpersons, the party was in reasonable shape. There was no competition except conservatism, but now, there exists a liberal alternative, in the shape of the Tehreek-i-Insaf.

Bilawal might have spent his entire life in the shadow of both his mother and his maternal grandfather,  but preceding his political debut, he has carried out political activites, so Garhi Khuda Bux was probably not the very first occasion, but the first major occasion, in which he played a prominent role.

Another son involved with the President was Makhdoom Ahmed Mahmood.  As the new Punjab Governor, he would be the President’s, i.e. Zardari’s, personal representative in the province. Of course he is a son, coming into the world with the normal complement of parents. One of those parents was Makhdoom Hassan Mahmood, who almost became Chief Minister in 1985, but became Leader of Opposition. The new Governor entered the Punjab Assembly in 1988, through a by-election caused by his father’s death of a heart attack. His grandfather, Makhdum Ghulam Miran, did not hold any public office, but he prepared his son for politics, marrying his daughters to Makhdoom Alamdar Hussain Gilani, whose son was Yousaf Reza, and the late Pir Pagaro, whose son is the present Pir. The rumours about Yousaf Reza joining the PML (F) were perhaps justified by this mutual relationship, and the fact that his couusins were in the PML(F). However, Makhdum Ahmed Mahmood has become Governor instead.

When the House of York won the war of the Roses, they had Edward, Duke of York, and Richard, Duke of Bloucester to offer England. Though it was Shakespeare who put the words in Gloucester’s mouth, it was these two persons he referred to when he said, “Now is the winter of our discontent made glorious by these suns of York”. Well, the PPP had better hope this is no winter of discontent, because Bilawal is no son of York. However, what else does the President offer the electorate but the heir of Benazir? The problem is that there are no rules of succession, so who is Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s true heir. Well, Bilawal faces no challenges to the headship of the Zardari tribe, for which he underwent the dastarbandi when his grandfather Hakim Ali died. Not enough attention is paid to him, for he was a former MNA, and the father of a President. After Benazir’s assassination,  Bilawal had to go through the deaths of not just his paternal grandfather, but also his maternal grandmother, Nusrat. He contains about a quarter of her genes, some of which he must share with his uncle Murtaza, who thought he was Bhutto’s true heir, and whose own son is named Zulfikar Ali, but whose legacy is being carried forward by his daughter Fatima.

But how much attention is being paid? People are busy surviving the cold. We are at the depths of winter, and want to warm up somehow. That might explain the protests in India after the death of a woman gangraped in a bus. Not just the ‘Shining India’ slogan of about 10 years ago came to mind, but also the government is busy cozying up to it, like MFN status. Anyhow, a lot of Indians got the opportunity of warming themselves up by marching around and raising slogans. However, while the Indian police did shut down many roads, they hadn’t profited enough from the recent visit of our Interior Minister, Rehman Malik, to shut off all mobiles. Nor did it declare that the killers were terrorists. And make them disappear, like in Balochistan.