Machiavellian Jihad: Bilawal at Karsaz
By: Omer Zaheer Meer
There are no absolute black and whites in politics. Context is everything rendering most of the areas grey. A focused study can however lead us closer to the real objectives behind most of the facades put up as necessity of sorts in the political arena.
Machiavelli in his acknowledged masterpiece “Il Principe” (translated as “The Prince” in English) has outlined a number of political clichés. Comparing an inherited prince to a “new prince” he stated the prior must carefully maintain the sociopolitical institutions public is accustomed to; whereas the latter needs to stabilize his power to enable him to build a lasting political structure.
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari’s speech at the “Karsaz” Monument in Karachi commemorating the 6th “anniversary” of the deadly Karsaz attack aimed to achieve exactly what a hereditary prince needs to per Machiavelli’s “The Prince”, a book Zulifqar Ali Bhutto used to keep under his pillow. Trying to stir up the political bias which keeps political parties in third world alive while at the same time exploiting the emotional sentiments of the hardcore Jiyala’s, this seems to be the beginning of attempts to revive PPP by magnifying the narrative of sacrifices and being wronged. There is just one big problem, the non-deliverance and disastrous performance in last five years without having any real scapegoat to blame this time around.
Notwithstanding Mr. Asif Ali Zardari’s politics of “reconciliation”, some would say “deal-making”, Bilawal choose to assault all major political players in competition with PPP. He claimed credit for peacefully ending the “drama” of Dr. Tahir Ul Qadri in Islamabad while pointing out incompetence of PMLN in handling the Sikander episode, criticized the supposedly “Buzdil” Khan, promised to hunt the “hungry lions of Punjab sucking the blood of the masses” and vowed to free “Karachi” from being a “British colony” by cutting the “kite” flown from UK via phone. As if that was not enough he committed himself to exposing the “siyasi Dajjal” who guard justice, an obvious reference to the higher judiciary. To entice the liberals he also declared a war against religious “contractors”, ironically using the term “jihad”.
Is Mr. Bilawal really at odds with his father and party policy to deliver a 180 degree policy speech of his own or is there more to it than meets the eye?
Mr. Zardari, over the years has established for himself a reputation of sorts, of being a Pakistani “Machiavelli”. Using deception, greed, fear, intimidation, withdrawal and exploiting emotions as prominent weapons amongst his never ending arsenal of political strokes. Could this than be another of those political ploys to revive PPP using the golden “good cop, bad cop” policy.
PPP badly battered and bruised with nothing substantial in terms of performance to show to a common man whose life has become so much harder needs a revival.
Though a bit early to pass a conclusive judgment, here is a depiction of the potential landscape conceived post the disastrous May Elections. Bilawal Bhutto Zardari is to deliver fiery addresses in typical “Bhutto” style (body language, gestures and dressings of Bilawal’s Karsaaz address already mimicked that of Zulifqar Ali Bhutto’s), targeting all opponents to instill “everyone vs us” feeling in PPP’s core base while exploiting the sentiments of being wronged by pointing to Garhi Khuda Baksh, trying to resuscitate PPP by taking away the focus from the destructive performance of the party in its last tenure.
Mr. Zardari would on the other hand utilize this to maintain pressure on PMLN to ward off any dangers of accountability on charges of corruption using the above along-with PPP’s numbers in the senate. This, in conjunction with a revived “Sindh card” can also build pressure on the Judiciary. To soften up Bilawal’s blows Zardari will continue to offer olive branches to PMLN & MQM, atleast behind closed doors, in order to achieve his goals as well keeping doors open for future alliances while Bilawal continues to take them on publicly.
Imran Khan and PTI are different phenomena though. Initially PPP believed PTI as more of a threat to others with a lack of presence in it’s’ core base of rural Sindh. The indifference to sufferings of the masses and worst performance by the last PPP government however created a vacuum. Already the second largest party in terms of votes PTI has damaged PPP more than PMLN and is looking to replace it as the other major player on the national level. While PMLN is an old rivalry, PTI is very much an existential threat.
Bilawal’s statement claiming Asif Zardari to be the bow and him to be the arrow in 2018 indicates the focus on reviving PPP using this strategy. Whether it’s wishful to believe people will forget the hell they endured from 2008 through 2013 or would they fall for the ploy yet again would depend not just on the emotional appeal of the “Bhutto’s” in the down-trodden but also whether other parties specially PTI would wake up from slumber and penetrate in the PPP heartland of rural Sindh. The performances of PMLN and PTI government in delivering the much needed relief to the masses would be the key deciding factor.
Furthermore another important fact would be the possible relationship between PMLN and PTI acting as either mature political parties engaging in constructive politics or locking horns in a negative all out power-tussle, acting as either a counter-punch or a launching pad respectively for the new PPP doctrine.
On a side note Bilawal’s speechwriters need to understand that badmouthing opponent leaders of national stature not only negatively affects Bilawal’s image but can also backfire politically as it creates sympathy for the affected amongst neutral voters and further push away even the rational supporters of the opponent while adversely affecting the protagonist charging on. PTI has learnt this lesson and now admit it in private discussions. Soon PPP will too.
The writer is a leading economist who is also a qualified chartered accountant, financial analyst and anti-money laundering expert. He can be reached on Twitter & www.myMFB.com IDs of Omer Zaheer Meer or firstname.lastname@example.org