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‘Selected’ leaders

Syed Shakir Ali

The writer is a senior journalist, poet, and analyst.

We are facing several global crises forcing the world on the threshold of Third World War, from the Middle East situation, increasing Indian hegemony in the region and atrocities in Kashmir, the carnage of Muslim in New Delhi, the changing situation in Afghanistan, or the coronavirus which originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan and has caused devastation.
The coronavirus has spread to over forty countries and wiped over $6 trillion from the global economy, killing over 3000 and affecting more than 90,000 people while a cure has yet to be discovered. Four people have been diagnosed with the virus in Pakistan, but the government has resorted to usual politicking rather than deal with the crisis.
In these circumstances, Railways Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed has created a firestorm by calling former prime minister and PPP founder Zulfikar Ali Bhutto as a ‘selected’ leader earning the ire of the PPP jiyalas and chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, who are furious over the rebuke and now our main concern has shifted to who is really ‘selected’ not.
The 2018 general elections brought the PTI to power and Imran Khan was elected as prime minister. Bilawal addressed the prime minister as ‘selected’ and ever since then all opposition parties have been referring to him as such, often receiving jibes from the PTI as well. One of the characteristics of Pakistan’s politics is that party members respect their leaders and show immense loyalty. Z.A. Bhutto is one of the most famous and controversial figures in the history of Pakistan’s politics. He rose to prominence as a young leader in the 1950s. He was smart, bright, well-educated, and had a charismatic personality. He had his flaws no doubt like all men, but calling him ‘selected’ has forced me to give a brief recollection.
In early 1958, Z.A. Bhutto was in Geneva to chair the Pakistan delegation to the UN Conference on the Law of the Sea, when he wrote a letter to President Iskander Mirza mentioning: “When the history of our Country is written by objective historians, your name will be placed even before that of Mr. Jinnah. Sir, I say this because I mean it and not because you are the President of my Country.”
Bhutto was just thirty years old and rather young for such an appointment. On 7th October 1958, Iskander Mirza imposed the first martial law and just twenty days later Bhutto was part of his cabinet. When General Ayub Khan took control and forced Mirza into exile, Bhutto became closely attached to the military leader referring to him as a father figure. Ayub Khan was also impressed by Bhutto’s intelligence calling them the de Gaulle of Asia and compared him to Salahuddin Ayubi. In 1962, Ayub Khan formed his own version of the Muslim League becoming president himself and Bhutto as secretary-general.
Bhutto was Ayub Khan’s covering candidate during the 1962 election contested against Fatima Jinnah. In 1965, Pakistan and India went to war and the Soviet Union brokered a peace agreement. The Tashkent Declaration was signed on 10th January 1966 between President Ayub Khan and Indian Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri. Bhutto was the foreign minister at the time and was present on the occasion. This is when the rift emerged and differences were created between both leaders. Bhutto quit the Ayub cabinet resigning as foreign minister and embarked on a political struggle.
This was the era of instability and there was a conflict between military and civil leaders to gain power, but this remains a different topic.  In 1967, the Pakistan Peoples Party was formed. Bhutto started an independent political struggle and in just a short span of three years swept power becoming president, civil martial law administrator, and eventually the Prime Minister of Pakistan in 1973.
In March 1977, Bhutto announced to hold elections while still being in power and the PPP gained the majority. The opposition parties decried rigging and refused to accept the result, while protests erupted leading to violence and riots. Chief of Army Staff General Zia-ul-Haq imposed martial law on 5th July 1977 and took complete control of the country.  
Afterwards Begum Nusrat Bhutto and Benazir Bhutto took reigns of the PPP’s leadership. Benazir started her political campaign and in 1988 become the first woman prime minister of Pakistan and the Islamic world. Bhutto received a second term from 1993-1996 while her political adversary Nawaz Sharif emerged from oblivion as Punjab’s finance minister in 1983 and eventually chief minister in 1985. Nawaz Sharif became prime minister in 1992 reaching the peace of his political career.
Ever since, we have seen ‘elected’ and ‘selected’ leaders coming to power. After Benazir Bhutto’s assassination in 2007, her party leadership was passed to her son Bilawal Bhutto Zardari as per a will, and her husband Asif Zardari become co-chairman. Bhutto has been leading the party ever since, is considered a potential prime minister, and has declared his sister Asifa Bhutto as his political heir.
The incumbent Prime Minister Imran Khan formed his own political party, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf in 1996, and dived into Pakistan’s politics. After a 22 year-long struggle, the party eventually won the 2018 elections. Zardari’s PPP is ruling in Sindh and is considered ‘elected’ while the PTI has the federal government and is termed ‘selected’. Everyone is living in their glass homes and throwing stones at each other
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