Death threats to Bilawal

Sheikh Rasheed, known since his advent in politics as an HMV of the deep state, continues to be a bull in the china shop. He is known for various services extended to the powers that be whenever they needed to demolish any politician who the establishment dreaded as a threat. Since his services are varied in nature much as the non-state actors or strategic interests, he is a most valued weapon in the secret armoury of the powers that be.

Politics indeed makes for strange bedfellows. Some years back, he served as a refined Gullu Butt in the government of Prime Minister (PM) Nawaz Sharif. Later on, after receiving marching orders he jumped on President General Pervez Musharraf’s bandwagon and served him well as the most obedient servant to his regime. Briefly, he came into acquaintance with Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chief Imran Khan when he was flirting with GPM hoping to be appointed as prime minister. His short affair with the dictator and his HMV did not leave a good impression on the future prime minister of Pakistan who in a television interview sharing with the Sheikh, told him on his face that he was such a third rate person that he would not even keep him as his peon. Their shouting match would have ended in a fist fight but for the paucity of time and intervention of saner elements around.

One would say perhaps that was Imran Khan’s brief moment of truth when he correctly sized up the heavyweight from Lal Haveli in Rawalpindi. Unfortunately the type of free-for-all maadar-pidar azad Dharna politics that Khan introduced in 2014 in collaboration with the powers that be, readily accepted Rashid’s posting in his fold. The gutter language used in the dharnas, threats hurled at political opponents, undermining of Parliament-all seemed to be the contribution of this heavyweight mastermind. There must be decent people in PTI and I am sure Khan too has some regrets about this.

Pakistani politics — ever since extra-constitutional interventions and engineering of politicians — have been converted into a cesspool of filth. Remember Field Marshal Ayub Khan’s time when then Foreign Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto parted his company with him over his surrender of Pakistani gains in the battlefield to Indian Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri in the conference table in Tashkent. Bhutto was instantly declared anti-state and an Indian agent. The rightist media, egged on by the Ministry of Information, hurled baseless charges against Bhutto and his family.

Sheikh Rasheed’s threats — orchestrated by General Pervez Musharraf’s administration — against twice-elected Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto ultimately ended in her tragic assassination, which ultimately eliminated the political leader the establishment dreaded most

During General Zia’s military rule, a vicious and venomous anti-Bhutto tirade became the order of the day. In subsequent years when Sheikh Rasheed became a powerful barking voice, he was assigned to malign Benazir Bhutto who had emerged as the sole spokesperson for the democratic rights of the people of Pakistan. During Musharraf’s tenure when he was a minister Sheikh Rasheed accused her of being an Indian agent for making a keynote speech at the Confederation of Indian Business in Delhi in which she had pleaded out of box settlement of Kashmir dispute without prejudice to the UN Resolutions, in keeping with the wishes of the people, opening of trade and massive confidence-building measures including visa relaxation. More or less in the same context, General Musharraf offered to India a solution to the Kashmir dispute under his much publicised and lauded four-point formula.

Sheikh Rasheed’s threats — orchestrated by General Pervez Musharraf’s administration — against twice-elected Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto ultimately ended in her tragic assassination, which ultimately eliminated the political leader the establishment dreaded most. In this gruesome background the nation should not take lightly the threats to the life of PPP Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto Zardari that are being constantly hurled by Khan’s own Gullu Butt. Indeed, PPP workers would lay down their lives to protect their leader at any cost and I am sure those second in command in the party, too would do their utmost to safeguard their chairperson.

One can understand the profound concern expressed by his sister Bakhtawar Bhutto Zardari in a Twitter drawing attention to the Federal Minister for Railways Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed’s direct death threats against Bilawal. Bakhtawar is absolutely right when she says ‘it is nothing new that extremist right wingers are threatening a Bhutto, but it is disgusting that a cabinet member is giving an open death threat to someone whose entire family was killed.’

Instead of launching a campaign against Sheikh Rasheed, the PPP leadership should lodge an FIR against the Railway Minister and also file a complaint before the Supreme Court. PPP shall have to do something more concrete than its leaders are planning to do to stop Sheikh’s vicious bark before he bites. Party leaders must wake up and should not take lightly death threats by the Railway Minister to the Party Chairman and without wasting time in thinking, proceed against the Sheikh legally. Could there be a more clearer threat than Sheikh Rasheed’s — in response to Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari’s press conference in the Sindh Assembly building, Sheikh Rasheed tweeted: “Bilawal should play carefully in politics otherwise he may be eliminated”. These words are more or less the same that were conveyed by Musharraf to martyred Benazir Bhutto when she announced her historic return to Pakistan.

The rising crescendo of Bilawal Bhutto’s popularity in the Parliament, his leadership surge globally and his saner approach to domestic issues seem to be causing sleepless nights to the engineered politicians and those involved in their selection rather than election. His meeting with former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in Kot Lakhpat Jail to inquire about his failing health being given different colours by various quarters-whatever-has definitely brought about a whiff of fresh air with hope. Indeed, it is time to revive and revamp Charter of Democracy signed in 2006 between martyred Benazir Bhutto and Mian Nawaz as the solid foundation to repair the badly mauled edifice of democracy damaged by extra-constitutional forces. Importance of Charter of democracy could be imagined from the fact that it was nationally recognised as the most important document after the Constitution of 1973.

Author is the former High Commissioner of Pakistan to UK and a veteran journalist.

Published in Daily Times, March 20th 2019.


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