Bilawal is to Imran what Nawaz was to Benazir

By: Ashraf Mumtaz      Published: 04:10 PM, 17 Jun, 2020
Bilawal is to Imran what Nawaz was to Benazir

Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, chairman of the country’s second-largest opposition party that has been ruling Sindh for the past 12 years, mounted blistering attacks on the federal government through his speech in the National Assembly on Tuesday.

The contents of his address established beyond doubt that he went to the house well-prepared. It was a masterpiece of criticism, although he did not name the prime minister even once – the real target – and at the same time left no doubt who he was referring to.

"Who had said that the coronavirus is just mild flu and not a deadly disease?" Who had opposed the lockdowns in the country and then imposed them and then eased them and to date is confused on what to do?”

It was an interesting comment on the fast-changing mind of the cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan.

Blasting the federal budget, the PPP chief said: “This cannot be a budget of a country suffering from the global pandemic," highlighting that the South Asian nation had 149,000 patients of the respiratory illness and that another 2,900 citizens had succumbed to it.

The young leader’s speech was reflective of the “adversarial relations” between the Centre and the Sindh government, something reminiscent of 1988-90 bitter relations between then Punjab chief minister Nawaz Sharif and then prime minister Benazir Bhutto (the assassinated mother of the incumbent chairman).

The period would always be remembered in history because of the confrontation between the two political rivals. The relations between the then PPP and PML were like the ones between the PTI and the PPP at present. The only difference is that of intensity.

Sindh government is not doing to the PTI government what then Punjab government used to do with the Centre.

Unfortunately, the ties are not likely to improve in future because of the vested interests of the two parties.

Sindh is the powerbase of the PPP which it can retain only by proving itself as a better entity compared to the PTI, the PML-N or any other party.

Likewise, the PTI will be diluting its identity by making any compromises with the PPP, a party that has a totally different ideology.

Differences between the two parties will sharpen in the times ahead, especially close to the new elections.

The PTI is trying its best to popularize itself in Sindh. The outcome of its efforts will crystallize when the nation goes to polls.

It is because of the varying political interests of the PTI and the PPP that in his speech Bilawal assailed the Centre, and said people were expecting the next year’s budget would address the pandemic woes but the federal government opposed every decision taken by Sindh to stem the spread of the disease".

"The federal government did not just oppose Sindh's but every provincial government's decision regarding curbing the coronavirus. Now when we know that the virus has gone rampant, did we increase the health budget proportionately? No!” he lamented.

Referring to the speeches of some other leaders, the PPP chairman said: "They had already warned that this is the biggest threat in 25 years. You kept on saying that the National Action Plan (NAP) is ready and we will fight through! What are you waiting for?” he asked.

"Are you waiting for droughts, famines and economic downfall? Who should we blame for these questionable decisions? We wanted to combat the virus with political unity," Bilawal said, noting that the government of Sindh and PPP had appealed to the Centre to follow the guidelines issued by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Apparently, with the approaching of the month of sacrifices (Zilhajj), PTI’s challenges are going up. The decision made by the Balochistan National Party of Akhtar Mengal to part ways with the PTI at this crucial juncture must come as a big jolt to the ruling party. After a few days, the national budget has to be approved, for which every vote is very crucial.

Let’s wait for future developments.

In case some other party followed suit for its own interests, the political scene may witness some unpredictable changes.