Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto Zardari asserted Pakistan needs a progressive alternative to populist, hate-driven politics of Pakistan Muslim League- Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI).
In a television interview with India Today on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum (WEF) on Saturday, the PPP chief also outlined his vision for a more inclusive, peaceful Pakistan.
“I feel like Pakistan needs a genuine, progressive voice. A progressive alternative to the populist, hate-driven politics of the two other mainstream political parties in the country,” he said in response to a question about his political leanings.
“PPP has always been the progressive voice in Pakistan, and that is the sort of politics I would like to do,” he added.
Pressed to comment about his relative inexperience in the political arena, as compared to PML-N leader Shehbaz Sharif or PTI chief Imran Khan, and rivals tagging him as ‘Baby Bhutto’, the PPP chief said that his opponents were resorting to childish behaviour.
“If they cannot fault you on your policy or what you have done, they resort to schoolyard insults,” he remarked.
Talking about the dynastic aspect of sub-continental politics, Bilawal Bhutto noted that it was always positive for young leaders in Pakistan and India to find space in national politics.
“The people of Pakistan support the PPP. Other people have the right to oppose my party. I would like to think they oppose us on policies and other issues of general interest, like we do.”
On questions about his personal life out of the public eye, the young Bhutto said he was living, eating and breathing politics.
“My mother was assassinated for opposing extremists. I did not choose a life in politics. It chose me. I sleep, eat, and breathe politics now and find great solace in working towards goals my mother was striving for all her life,” Bilawal said in reference to his motivations as a leader.
The Indian reporter also asked the PPP chief about the war on terror being fought inside Pakistan, and his views on it.
“The State of India regularly messes and pokes with us. Pakistan Army needs to fight terrorists. We need a strong, capable armed force to fight extremism in Pakistan,” he maintained.
“It is not my percussive to criticize my brave soldiers while they are battling extremists in Pakistan,” Bilawal scathingly replied to queries about terror safe havens in Pakistan.
Commenting on the current thaw in relations between Pakistan and United States (US) after a controversial tweet by US President Donald Trump, Bilawal said that Trump had perhaps mixed up facts and figures.
“I do not think Trump wanted to give the impression that America does not honour its debts. Coalition Support fund is not aid. It is money for the work already done fighting terrorism,” he explained.
“Countering extremism isn’t Islam-specific. You have extremists in Myanmar, in India, in America and Pakistan. You have extremists in every religion,” Bilawal stated.
In relation to the popularity of Indian Prime Minister (PM) Modi, the PPP chief said that he could not take a partisan position on Indian politicians.
“There are many Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) politicians that I respect. Unfortunately, there are some who do populist, hate driven politics, divide communities along ethnic, religious lines lines, and feed off negative emotions of people.”
“Is winning elections important or doing the right thing? The people of Indian and writers of history will decide who did the right thing,” Bilawal noted.
“If we want to find a solution, we will have to sit together. If we want to do populist politics like Modi or Trump, we are never going to end extremism or terrorism.”
The PPP chief ended the discussion with a policy statement on how to counter extremism and terror in the society.
“Right now, Pakistan is focused on the militaristic aspect of fighting extremism. We also have a National Action Plan, a more holistic approach which addresses issues within society, like hate speech and structural reforms,” he said.
“We also have to look at our curriculum. We have to look at what we are teaching our children. Nobody should not tolerate hate speech in society. We cannot tolerate prejudice, misogyny and hate. If we do not tolerate all this, there will not be any space left for extremists.”
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