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ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari has said that the PPP did not choose to be dynastic rather it was brought upon the party.

“My grandfather was killed, which forced my mother to enter politics, and she was assassinated, which forced me in,” said the young leader in an interview with the BBC’s Hardtalk.

Read: From Bhutto to Bilawal

“I will not go into the merits or the demerits of dynastic politics,” said Mr Bhutto-Zardari when asked if the PPP was a party only of the Bhutto family. He said while it was true that dynastic politics had no place in modern democracies, it was a reality in Pakistan.

He said the party — that he co-heads with his father Asif Ali Zardari — was representative of a democratic, socially just and modern Pakistan.

Explore: I spent the best part of my life watching my mother fight the forces of patriarchy, says Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari

When asked about who really runs the party — his father or Bilawal himself — he said the party made all decisions with consensus and no one person was in charge.

To a question whether the PPP had forgotten its ideology, and what it stood for, he said the PPP had always been committed to democracy and that it maintained its roots. He said the party would look to his grandfather’s slogan of roti, kapra, and makaan to campaign for the elections.

He claimed that the PPP’s opposition to the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) was the reason why the party did not do well in the 2013 elections. He pointed out that the TTP had specifically called out the PPP as its enemy, while openly supporting the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) and the Jamaat-i-Islami (JI).

He said the Taliban supported these three parties, calling them “allies” and gave them a “free hand” in the run-up to the polls.

“My candidates were kidnapped; the prime minister’s son was kidnapped and the former governor’s son was also kidnapped.”

He said it was not only the TTP that was out against his party, but also anti-democratic elements within the country: “We were not allowed to campaign, the political chief justice of the time — who has now gone on to form his own party — stopped my father from campaigning.”

About the obstacles the PPP faced, Mr Bhutto-Zardari pointed out that no political actor anywhere in the world could have overcome the problems.

Asked what the PPP thought of allegations of corruption and Asif Zardari’s image tarnished by corruption cases, the chairman answered that his father had spent over 11 years in prison “without a conviction”. He said the PPP had always fought for democracy against dictators.

“Each and every single case brought against my parents — it took us thirty years, we fought it out. Each and every single case, they have been acquitted”.

Benazir’s assassination

“You have to have lemon and honey in your tea. I told my mother in our last conversation before she was killed. She had been campaigning across the country… she was a charismatic speaker and spoke from the heart – after a long campaign her voice had gone away,” said Mr Bhutto-Zardari remembering his last moments with his mother.

Ms Benazir had repeatedly been threatened by the Taliban but she did not refuse to be held back.

Published in Dawn, April 20th, 2018