NEW YORK: Pakistan People's Party Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari says he can bridge the gap between Pakistan and the United States and help defuse the current Islamabad-Washington tensions.
In an interview with Newsweek, Bilawal echoed Pakistan’s position on the various irritants that have strained relations between the US and Pakistan recent months.
He defended the handling of the case of Dr Shakil Afridi, who helped CIA track down Osama bin Laden, pointing out that cooperating with foreign-intelligence services, even of a friendly government, is illegal in every country, and noting, We restored an independent judiciary in Pakistan after a long struggle, and the first democratically elected government of Pakistan will observe the rule of law.
Talking about his mother, Shaheed Benazir Bhutto's assassination, he said, I grew up overnight on that day, December 27, 2007.
Correspondent Eleanor Clift, who interviewed the PPP chairman during his recent visit to the United States, wrote in her dispatch, “In a country where 60 per cent of the population is under age 30, the 23-year-old Bilawal sees himself as the modern face of a young Pakistan.
He is working to modernise the party through social media and building his political career. He was in Washington recently, where many who knew his mother are excited to see him take up the mantle, even as they worry about his safety. It’s a big responsibility, he readily concedes, but it’s not a family business, its a way of life, its an ideology, its a vision for Pakistan.
When pressed on why he would give up a comfortable life in London, or Dubai, and return to Pakistan, where there are threats against his life, Bilawal uses the same words as his mother, I didn’t choose this life. It chose me. I can’t let my mother’s death have been in vain, he says.
Democracy is the best revenge, and we will have it. Correspondent Clift wrote, “Talking with the younger (Bilawal) Bhutto, he conveys the confidence of someone accustomed to being in public life, and he has the good looks and natural charisma that made his mother and grandfather such memorable figures.
He is also appropriately humble and realistic in saying he lacks a mandate within his party because he has not yet run for office himself. “Bilawal is working to set up a foundation in his mother’s name that would, among other things, offer a sanctuary to women in minority communities who suffer abuse and provide them with legal assistance. He is proud that the government headed by his father, President Asif Ali Zardari, has made domestic violence illegal and 'passed the most pro-woman legislation in the last four years than all the previous governments combined'.
On Dr Afridi's case, correspondent Clift wrote, Bilawal “is worried about another kind of fallout from the phony vaccination program led by the Pakistani doctor. Bilawal's youngest sister, Asifa, was named by her father in 2009 as Pakistan's ambassador for polio eradication. Like so much of what this family does, it honours the memory of Benazir Bhutto, who in 1994 launched the first immunisation campaign in the country, personally giving the first drops to her daughter, Asifa.
“In a country that is distrustful of modern medicine and foreign influences, persuading parents to vaccinate their children is a challenge, and the revelation about the CIA's involvement has seriously undermined the programme.
“We may very well be the last country on earth with polio now as a result, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said. It's quite frustrating. “Like many young people, (Bilawal) found inspiration in President (Barack) Obama, but was disappointed there wasn't much follow-through after his speech in Cairo,” according to the dispatch. Bilawal said, Quite a few of us had hoped there would be an Islamabad speech as well.”
He added General attitudes to the US are not good, and they are drastically getting worse and worse with every drone strike, with every innocent civilian killed.