BILAWAL Bhutto-Zardari’s farewell address to the National Assembly after his first stint as an elected representative has given voice to the feelings of general despair being felt by the silenced masses, but also invited renewed criticism of the ‘dynastic’ style of politics espoused by certain democratic parties.

Addressing his father, PPP co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari, and the PML-N supremo, Nawaz Sharif, Mr Bhutto-Zardari expressed regret at the way Pakistani politics continues to be conducted, complaining that the two ‘senior politicians’ may have condemned the new lot to suffer for the next 30 years what they had suffered over the past three decades.

 

Though it was a smaller excerpt of his speech that ignited heated debate on social media, Mr Bhutto-Zardari’s remarks, in general, were otherwise praiseworthy for their astuteness. He spoke of the need for dialogue and a new charter of democracy; for institutions to function within their domains; for the rules of the game to be defined; and for the powerful to not continue to ignore the needs of two-thirds of the population, which comprises people below the age of 30.

The PPP chairman was also candid in admitting that although the outgoing government may have seized power last April through a constitutional manoeuvre, it failed to keep institutions within their constitutional domains over the next 16 months.

Such clarity of thought in the upcoming generation of political leaders would give one hope that all is not lost. But, and perhaps rightly so, many were left outraged when he beseeched Messrs Zardari and Sharif to “make politics easier for me and Maryam Sharif”.

He may have been addressing the two seniors as a child might their parents, possibly for some added pathos, but it seems Mr Bhutto-Zardari hasn’t fully read the nation’s mood. At a time when faith in the democratic system is rapidly evaporating, and the people have been left disenfranchised, the suggestion that political power is an inheritance to be shared between the Sharifs and Zardaris was bound to raise hackles.

There is no dearth of able, forward-looking politicians in Pakistan, and it must be unacceptable to any democratically inclined person that their chances of being chief executive should be automatically limited by an accident of birth.

It may well be that the scions of our political dynasties are capable politicians in their own right, but ‘level playing fields’ cannot just be for contests between a handful of families.

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