Bilawal Bhutto- Challenges Ahead For The opposition In Pakistan

Ahsan Iqbal, who is already an MP from Malaysia has announced his candidature for the presidential polls in Malaysia in 2009. He is a former Malaysian Development Minister and also a Cabinet Minister. This could be seen as a risky move by a man who is already very high profile in his party, the ruling National Penang party (NPP). However, following the announcement, Bilawal Ismail made a few comments regarding the possible implications of his decision not to seek pre-party status for Bilawal. For those who might be curious as to what these implications are; they are discussed below.

Firstly, Bhutto is expressing regret over not being eligible to stand as a candidate for prime minister. This is quite unsurprising, considering the fact that he is one of the more outspoken opponents of Utamas, the independent commission which was set up to investigate corruption within the government and the opposition. Most people who criticize Utamas find themselves out of office when their investigation results come out; so this makes Ismail a mere political novice. He is therefore no doubt disappointed, but this disappointment should not affect the way his party will govern in the next elections. Rather, it is more likely that the NPP will now concentrate its efforts on forming coalitions with other smaller parties, making Ismail’s ambitions for higher government office once again a distant dream.

Secondly, Bhutto has indicated that he would not try to form a cabinet with any of the major parties in the opposition. This is surprising because such a move would greatly benefit the opposition, given that there is a huge vacuum in the national legislature currently. It is however understandable given the fact that there are many major party candidates waiting in the wings. Regardless, the ruling party is hoping that this move will galvanize the opposition to do their bidding at the polls in the next elections.

Thirdly, Bilawal is being very careful not to antagonize the International NGOs, which is a major force behind the opposition. Earlier this month, the premier met the UN special rapporteur on freedom of speech, Karydaha Lama. The rapporteur presented a report that accused Pakistan’s authorities of intimidating the NGOs; a charge that the government denied. The opposition quickly took up the issue and demanded an explanation from Bilawal before deciding to form a cabinet. If Bilawal had merely shunned the issue instead, it is likely that the government would have been forced to engage the opposition on this point, something they are obviously uncomfortable doing right now.

Fourthly, in Bilawal’s eyes, the problem with corruption in Pakistan is not merely an economic one. Instead, he and his associates believe that it is a moral and social concern that can be tackled only by a technocratic government. They, therefore, claim that the ruling party is too busy playing games to tackle corruption.

Lastly, remarks are being seen as a direct challenge to the prime minister, Nawaz Sharif. The two are often at odds, with the prime minister dismissing allegations against Sharif as “unsubstantiated and irrelevant” and the opposition leader asking the prime minister to “show evidence that corruption has not spread beneath the surface of the society”. The opposition has tried to highlight the failures of the government in implementing anti-corruption measures and called for transparency in public life. If Bilawal is to be believed, the prime minister is yet to prove himself as much more than merely a fraud, but rather, as someone who is no longer above the corruption that permeates Pakistan’s political system.

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