Old Bhutto, and older Gandhi


(from left to right) Pakistan’s prime minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, India’s Prime Minister Indira, and Benazir Bhutto, who later on became Pakistan’s prime minister. PHOTO/Good Times/Duck Duck Go

Dr Mubashir Hasan’s admirers in India and Pakistan paid him their respects last week at an event hosted on Zoom, a handy social media platform. It was recalled among Dr Hasan’s successes and failures that Z.A. Bhutto had ignored his advice to fight right-wing rivals with the core strength of his party’s pro-people ideology. Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari appears to have learnt little from his grandfather’s disastrous political denouement.

Same holds true for the Gandhi family in India whose Congress party has lost its sheen by abandoning its essential pro-people worldview. When one day Jyotiraditya Scindia, a young colleague, walked out on them to join the Bharatiya Janata Party, Rahul Gandhi was speechless. Scindia was one person who could walk into his house any time of the day, he mumbled. That’s precisely the problem. The question is how many more Scindias might be lurking within the sanctum sanctorum.

The incident indicated two possibilities. There is no ideological filter to assess a Congress leader from any other. There is also the possibility that the party has no core ideology left anyway.

Bilawal’s quandary may not be dissimilar. He wants Imran Khan to perform on the current health emergency or vacate. And since nobody, barring New Zealand’s Jacinda Arden, has succeeded in any measure to stare back at the disease, it can be assumed that the young opposition leader wants Imran Khan to go anyhow. That would be in line with his pre-Covid-19 calls for the prime minister’s removal.

The virus itself has given the clearest hint for the way forward.

In November last year, the PPP had supported a right-wing clergy-led campaign to unseat Imran who they described as Pakistan’s Gorbachev.

It’s the prerogative of the opposition in democracies to keep the treasury on a short leash. But these are no ordinary times, and misplaced enthusiasm could be construed as posturing. Let’s assume that Imran in a fit of good humour obliges his young opponent and retreats to his sprawling mansion in Banigala. What then? Would Bilawal or any other opposition leader have a game plan to take on the swarming pandemic, leave alone defeat it?

Dawn for more

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