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“No one is saying our last term, or any term, was perfect” — Bilawal Bhutto

It’s been 50 years since the Pakistan People’s Party was founded by your grandfather, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. In your opinion, what led to the rise of the PPP and what are the reasons for its decline and present showing in the assemblies?

BBZ: There were multiple factors that led to the rise of the PPP, the most important of them being our ability to articulate the core challenge of extreme economic injustice. The entire country’s wealth was concentrated in the hands of 22 families. The PPP spoke to this injustice, and brought redistribution and hope for a more egalitarian society. Hope is a very important intangible, and it is important to conquer fear and fragility which becomes the lot of the deprived and the voiceless. We give voice to that hope, but we embed that in credible, transformational politics.

It’s another thing that we don’t spend billions in public money advertising it.

We obviously don’t enjoy the same parliamentary presence today as we did, but the biggest reason for thi…

The price of freedom

Journalism is exciting; the constant news cycle gives one an adrenaline rush. For Pakistani journalists, there is always something to talk about, some new 'breaking news', as there is rarely a slow news day. This is what makes this profession so different. On the one hand, there is the excitement and, on the other, there is - danger. We all know that freedom of expression is a basic right, but we also know that it comes with a price. Those who had forgotten this simple 'rule' were given a 'reminder' last month.

Ahmad Noorani, a senior journalist with a local English daily, The News, was beaten up by unknown assailants in Islamabad. He received serious head injuries during the attack. Thankfully he has since recovered and is out of danger but the real danger still lurks in the shadows. Not just for Noorani but for all others who may have crossed some 'red lines' drawn by the powerful forces.

As Dawn noted in its editorial post-Noorani attack: "The s…

Shifting towards the Right

Pakistan has no dearth of bigots but if bigotry had a name, it would have been Captain (retd) Muhammad Safdar Awan. He is not just an ordinary member of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz; he is also the son-in-law of the former prime minister, Nawaz Sharif. On Tuesday, Captain Safdar turned the National Assembly of Pakistan into a hate speech centre. His vitriol against the Ahmadiyya community was disgusting and dangerous at the same time.

Less than a year ago, Nawaz Sharif, the then premier, had renamed the Quaid-i-Azam University's physics centre after Professor Abdus Salam, Pakistan's first Nobel laureate and an Ahmadi. Captain Safdar had the gall to demand that this be undone. "These people [Ahmadis] are a threat to this country, its Constitution and ideology," said Safdar. He further went on to say that he wants to table a resolution in the Assembly asking for a ban on the recruitment of Ahmadis in the armed forces. Maybe he has forgotten the names of several bra…

Freedoms and sport

Gauri Lankesh's brutal murder earlier this month jolted India and its media in a way we have not seen before; probably because most Indians take their freedoms for granted. Journalists in Pakistan have seen various ups and downs when it comes to media freedom and in spite of a seemingly 'free' and outspoken media, we know very well what self-censorship means and how to exercise caution. We in Pakistan do not take our freedoms for granted because we have seen the rise of right-wing extremism and terrorism over the decades. We know our freedoms can be snatched away in one fell swoop.

I wrote a piece on Gauri's murder for an Indian publication recently. Some Indian readers asked if I even knew her for me to comment on her death. It is as if some Indian readers just did not like that a Pakistani was telling them what media freedom means and how they must fight the obscurantist forces threatening their freedoms. No, I did not know Gauri Lankesh personally but her murder som…

Gauri Lankesh: The view from Pakistan

Journalists in Pakistan are no strangers to danger. Last year, Pakistan was declared the fourth most dangerous country in the world for journalists in a report by the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ). Yet it does not deter many a brave journalist from taking risks and reporting things that can definitely land them in hot water. Some in the Pakistani media still report on issues that many consider taboo or dangerous but only because we do not take our freedoms for granted; Pakistani journalists have fought tooth and nail for these freedoms.

We have all sorts of enemies – be it the state, religious extremists, terrorists and/or mafias, among many other faceless entities. But it’s not just the journalists who are at risk: our society has changed over the years; intolerance is now so widespread that sometimes one tends to become extremely cautious even in a private setting. I see something of the same sort happening in India…albeit at a slower pace but it is still happening.

Aftermath of a verdict

Is it 'game over' for Nawaz Sharif?


On July 28, another prime minister of Pakistan was sent home without completing his tenure. Mian Nawaz Sharif, a power premier and the only man to have been elected three times to this position, was disqualified by a five-member bench of the Supreme Court of Pakistan. Five-zero was the decision. The decision was not totally unexpected; the build-up to the decision had led one to believe that, one way or the other, the then prime minister was certainly in trouble.

The disqualification of Sharif was not on corruption charges related to Panama - those charges are to be probed by an accountability court now and an order has been given to file references in this regard - but on a debatable technicality related to his 'iqama' (United Arab Emirates work visa). Sharif had to step down because he was employed by his son's company, Capital FZE, as chairman of its board at a basic salary of 10,000 dirham per month from August 2006 to April …

“The court has upheld what the PM was saying all along” Dr Musadik Malik

Do you think the Panama verdict is in favour of the Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N) and the celebrations by party members are justified? If so, why did the prime minister not address the nation after the Panama judgement came out as had earlier been announced?

Dr MM: There was never a point in time when the prime minister announced that he was going to address the nation post the Panama judgement; we don’t know how this rumour started and why. He had already addressed the nation when he thought he needed to submit himself for scrutiny. And everyone was critical, asking why he had done this, why there was a need to speak to the people of Pakistan. But the PM felt he needed to come clean, to come to the people and tell them the entire story, and also to say he would submit himself for further investigation because he had nothing to hide. He also offered to present his family [for scrutiny] – even those family members who don’t live in this country, who live abroad, who are residen…

“Not a single judge has accepted Nawaz Sharif’s defence” Aitzaz Ahsan

There are many who feel that the PPP and its leadership’s recent statements against the PML-N are irrelevant in the current political scenario. How would you respond?

AA: First of all, if a party holds a majority in any one province, it cannot become irrelevant. So for the PPP to continue to hold Sindh will keep it relevant even though it may perform poorly in Punjab. In the federal system, the government of a province is sufficient to give the party an important place on the political stage and the PPP appears to be in no danger of losing Sindh. If it is returned with a majority from Sindh and a majority in the Sindh Assembly, it will remain relevant. The theory that it has become irrelevant to the political events and processes in Pakistan is probably based on its poor performance in the Punjab. But this is a Punjab-based analysis.

I believe that the PPP will take a share of the Punjab vote and representation. It is strong in some districts of southern Punjab. And the Nawaz governmen…