Death threats to Bilawal Bhutto

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By Wajid Shamsul Hasan

Sheikh Rasheed known since his advent in politics as HMV of dark state, has remained to be a bull in the china shop. He is known for various services extended to the powers that be whenever needed for demolishing 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 most valued Knight Templar in the secret armoury of the powers that be.

Politics indeed, makes for strange bedfellows. Some years back he served as refined Gullu Butt in the government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Later on 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 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 like to 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 heavy weight from Lal Haveli in Rawalpindi. Unfortunately the type of free-for-all  maadar -pidar azad Dharna politics that IK introduced in 2014 in collaboration with powers that be, readily accepted Lal Haveli’s Falstuff on 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 the heavy weight master mind. There must be decent people in PTI and I am sure IK too would be having second thoughts and regretting it too.

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 Foreign Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto parted his company with him over his surrender of Pakistani gains in battle field 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.  

In General Zia’s military rule, 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 GPM’s tenure when he was a minister Sheikh Rasheed accused her of being an Indian agent for making a key note 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 and substance General Musharraf offered to India as the solution of Kashmir dispute under his much publicised and lauded 4-point formula.

Sheikh Rasheed’s threats orchestrated by General Pervez Musharraf’s administration against twice-elected Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto ultimately ended in her colossal assassination by their hired killers to eliminate the political leader they dreaded most. In this gruesome back ground the nation should not take lightly threats to life of PPP Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto Zardari that are being constantly hurled by IK’s 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 to Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari. 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 Raseed, PPP leadership should not waste time in lodging an attempt to murder FIR against the Railway Minister and also file a complaint before the Supreme Court to arrest him. 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 GPM 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 seems 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.)