The Problem, Child: An open letter to Bilawal Zardari

By Mobeen Chughtai


Mr. Bilawal Zardari,


I hope you are well; in fact, I know you are. Ensconced in triple layered security, surrounded by guards (both government provided and private), cut off from the common citizen by containers (that you still have to pay for!!) and encircled by a convoy of safety vehicles, who wouldn’t be well?

But most of us aren’t.


I saw your latest address on October 18th, 2013 at Karsaz – the site of the unfortunate attack on your mother (God rest her soul) – and let me be honest, a stirring speech it wasn’t. Not even close. Put aside the lack of grasp you exhibit on the Urdu language – that really isn’t an issue for me. Shaheed Benazir Bhutto wasn’t known for her prowess in the aforementioned language, nor was Mr. Jinnah for that matter. I really don’t believe that linguistic flow necessitates great leadership (but it helps so keep up the tutoring!!). I am far more interested in the content of the oration, though.


As far as that is concerned, unfortunately, it was a piss poor performance. Two things here, young leader: less sloganeering, more “message” and address real ground issues rather than sending empty threats to other parties who, quite frankly, are less intimidated by you than I am by a canary.


When Mr. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was murdered by the then military dictator, General Zia ul Haq (may God banish his soul to the furthest depths of hell for the seeds he sowed during his reign), your mother faced pressures that would shatter a normal individual’s psyche and spirit. Repeated house arrests, stays at jails, threats of violence and eventually a prolonged exile only served to forge the then young Benazir into a force to be reckoned with. You, on the other hand, have it easy. You can leave the country whenever you so desire and return at your leisure. You can afford and obtain the safety net that covers you. You can address “the people” – whether through mass media or your preferred twitter account at your convenience. You have throngs of deep pocketed “friends” showering you with gifts and estates to curry favor from your well established father. All of the above were avenues of respite not available to young Benazir. But I sympathize with you more than with that young Benazir for there is one thing you don’t have – time.

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Pakistan, today, is inches from oblivion. Our foreign reserves are laughable, our economy stuttering, our foreign policy befuddled. We, as a nation, stand staring at the gates of Hades dumbfounded by the choices that led us down this path. I say again – you don’t have time. You don’t have time to lead a normal life till the mantle of politician is thrust upon you. You don’t have time to entertain fantasies for “hot” colleagues – contrived or otherwise. You don’t have time to leave for Dubai over “papa-issues”. In short, again my sympathies, but you don’t have time for a normal learning curve; you don’t have time to be a normal human being. If you choose to be a leader, you need to be so much more than what you are at present.


Is it really that great a sacrifice?


Perhaps it is. Perhaps, the loss of innocence is the greatest loss – the greatest sacrifice a person can ever make. But consider this, your mother made the same sacrifice when she committed herself to the Peoples’ Party and its cause. Don’t take my word for it, read your own mother’s words, “In the end, personal life is sacrificed on the altar of political commitment. This is because the public is the political family. To succeed and reach the top, most families, irrespective of gender, whether in politics or other professions, have to go the extra mile, consequently sacrificing personal interests to the larger cause.”, wrote Shaheed Benazir Bhutto in Outlook magazine.

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But I would like to go a step further. When our children cannot go out and play because we are scared that they may be kidnapped for ransom, maimed in terrorist attacks or raped by perverts – our children make the same sacrifice. Then why should a young man, who has publically stated his interest in becoming a future leader of the country, be spared the fallout?


Like I said, you have my sympathies – but only up till a point.


I laud your attempt at labeling the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan TTP, “Janwar” (animals). I praise it because today when every other party (minus the ANP and MQM) is willingly on its knees before this enemy – you’ve come out and called a spade a spade. Bravo!


You’ve dubbed Karachi a colony of London run by “the man on the phone” and your willingness to “cut his kite”. Well done!


You’ve labeled Imran Khan a “coward” for his apologeticism on behalf of the Taliban. Hurrah!


But the spirit of honesty dictates that you subject yourself and your political party to the same level of scrutiny. How long will you lie to yourself and to others over the acts of your father, Mr. Asif Zardari? How long will you sweep his misdeeds under the carpet? How long will you turn a blind eye to the corruption he has wrought upon these lands?


There is a subtle yet important, difference between appreciating someone’s words and believing them – this is Pakistan, after all. I would have respected your words regarding the Taliban more if they were followed with swift, effective action up to and including its complete annihilation during the PPP reign. I would have believed your statements today had you “cut the string” on the MQM during the last PPP tenure rather than make them into ‘honored allies’. I would have trusted your speech today if you had taken the time to actually be in Pakistan and make efforts to defeat Imran Khan’s discourse when it was gaining momentum. Alas, you were too busy being cool at Oxford, and woe unto us, your father believed in “Siyasi Mufahimat” on all levels.

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Not that I am a mindless jiyala or enthralled by the supremacy of the Bhutto bloodline – I’m an independent supporter of policies that the PPP, incidentally, claims to support and uphold. But notice, I’ve addressed you as Bilawal Zardari and not Bilawal “Bhutto” Zardari, as you prefer to call yourself. The reason is simple: somethings in life, you get for free – others, my boy, you have to earn.


So take a good, hard look in the mirror – if you can find the time from other activities. Do it for your mother, for your grandfather and, most importantly, do it for the people you claim to hold dear and ask yourself, “What have I really done to deserve leadership?”


Oh and while you’re at it, please, please… grow up!



Mobeen Chughtai.



The writer is an ex-war journalist and currently works as a media and communications expert.

He can be reached at


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