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Imran Khan faces bouncer barrage as NextGen women leaders mount fierce attack

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New Delhi, Dec 2, 2020-
Two women, one a relatively experienced hand at politics and the other a debutant, took centre stage at the Multan rally of the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) a few days back.

The first was Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) vice-president Maryam Nawaz Sharif who at 47 is already a grandmother, has been jailed twice and continues to be a big crowd-puller during the anti-Imran Khan government jalsas.

The second at centrestage of the Monday rally, was 20 years younger than Maryam, was Pakistan Peoples Party’s Aseefa Bhutto-Zardari, daughter of Pakistan’s slain Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, who walked in to deliver her first speech from a political podium amid a lot of anxiety hung all around and took the internet by storm instantly.

A look first however at how the duo, perhaps also ushering in a new era in Pakistani politics at the same time, demolished the ‘kaptaan’ of ‘naya’ Pakistan in another power show of the 11-party opposition alliance.

Maryam feared for Pakistan because an “inexperienced player, Covid-18 Imran – the country’s most lethal virus” was running it. “Two selectors (Khan and Pakistan Army Chief Qamar Javed Bajwa) are constantly trying to push this bus (government) forward, but it is not running,” she said.

Aseefa, a replacement for her brother Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari who is currently in quarantine after testing positive for Covid-19, said that PM Imran Khan will have to “pack up and leave” now after failing to deliver.

“I hope that just like you supported the mother of democracy and the daughter of the east, you will support Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari on PDM’s platform. And I promise that I will support Chairman Bilawal and you at every step,” said the youngest child of Benazir and former President Asif Ali Zardari.

The young leader kept her speech short but it was enough for #AseefaBhutto to become the top trend on Pakistani social media within a few hours. Talks of her striking resemblance to her mother Benazir have dominated discussions on various platforms.

“Aseefa Bhutto looked so much like her mother today, reminded me of the courage Benazir Bhutto was made of. What a wonderful launch,” said Ghania Kamal, a blogger.

“The girl has potential to play a significant role in Pakistan politics,” wrote Amna Khan, an aviator and a motivational speaker.

Not surprisingly, the Bilawal House in Karachi, which had sent Aseefa to Multan as a stop-gap arrangement and also to quell any rumours of party distancing itself from the PDF event, could now seriously be forced to consider her formal entry in politics. Having kept Bakhtawar Bhutto-Zardari – who got engaged to a Dubai businessman last Friday – away from politics, even the local media is speculating that given the family’s history, Aseefa joining politics wouldn’t come as a surprising development.

“In his lifetime, especially when he was behind bars during General Ziaul Haq’s regime, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto had also patronised and groomed Benazir Bhutto from amongst his children to come into politics at a very difficult time for the party as well as for the Bhutto family. Although Begum Nusrat Bhutto was the formal chair of the PPP during his imprisonment, Benazir Bhutto had effective control over the party not only during the martial law period but subsequently as well. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto had kept his two sons and other daughter away from politics.

“Murtaza Bhutto did eventually form his own political party but he could not get much room in the political field compared to his sister, who became prime minister twice. She was all set to win the parliamentary polls once more to become the prime minister for a third time but was tragically assassinated as she was leaving the venue of her campaign rally in Liaquat Bagh, Rawalpindi,” wrote The News, last week.

India too will be watching the fast-changing political scenario in Pakistan. Back in 2015, it was for the wedding of Mehrun Nisa, daughter of Maryam and granddaughter of then Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, that the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had paid a surprise visit to Lahore while returning from Afghanistan.

Sharif, a three-time PM, has been living in the United Kingdom since last November and has criticized the ruling government and country’s powerful military severely during his live video speeches recently, so much so that Khan had accused him of “playing India’s game.”

The ‘game’ has certainly reached another level. With more PDM rallies planned in Lahore and Islamabad in the coming weeks, it will be interesting to see how the emerging ‘women power’ in Pakistani politics pushes the “puppet” Prime Minister further into a corner. (Agency)

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