| Welcome to Global Village Space

Friday, May 24, 2024

Bhutto aims to focus on Pakistan’s youth, break with old politics

As general elections near on Feb. 8, the 35-year-old, a former foreign minister and scion of a family that gave the nation two prime ministers, called for new ideas and leadership to calm political and economic instability.

Youth appeal and ambitious plans to combat climate change form the core of Bilawal Bhutto Zardari’s effort to become prime minister of Pakistan, which, if successful, would make him it’s youngest premier since his mother Benazir was in office.

As general elections near on Feb. 8, the 35-year-old, a former foreign minister and scion of a family that gave the nation two prime ministers, called for new ideas and leadership to calm political and economic instability.

Read more: Bilawal Bhutto slip of tongue: ‘KFC’ or ‘KMC’?

“The implications of the decisions taken today are going to be faced by the youth of Pakistan,” Bhutto Zardari told Reuters in Larkana, his hometown in the southern province of Sind, a family bastion.

“I think it would be better if they were allowed to make those decisions.”

About two-thirds of Pakistan’s population of 241 million is younger than 30, while its prime ministers since 2000 have been older than 61, on average.

Read more: Bugti joins PPP, Bilawal lashes out at Nawaz Sharif

The Oxford-educated Bhutto Zardari is less than half the age of three-time premier Nawaz Sharif, 74, whom analysts consider the frontrunner in next month’s election, and former cricket super star Imran Khan, 71, who won the last election in 2018.

The eventual winner faces the task of reviving a struggling $350-billion economy grappling with historic inflation and an unstable rupee currency that limit growth and job opportunities for the young.

The South Asian nation received a $3-billion loan programme from the IMF in July that averted a sovereign debt default in a standby arrangement set to expire this spring.

Bhutto Zardari plans to tap into widespread anger, saying he has a concrete plan to provide free electricity and boost social safety programmes, despite fiscal constraints.

“What we propose is to completely restructure Pakistan’s development model, putting the threat of climate change front and centre,” he said, in a reflection of his party’s election manifesto.

Making a promise rare in Pakistan, it aims to ensure that funds exceeding $10 billion pledged last year go to fight climate change, after super floods in 2022 that displaced more than 7 million people.

A member of Pakistan’s most powerful political dynasty, Bhutto Zardari spoke in an interview during a gruelling four-week campaign that took him to more than 33 towns, while other parties began canvassing just last week.

He is the son of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, assassinated while on the campaign trial in 2007, and the grandson of former Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, hanged by a military dictator in 1979, both still venerated by Pakistanis.

If Bhutto Zardari won the election, subject to the vagaries of government formation, calculations show he could be just 25 days short of his mother’s age on entering office in 1988, at the earliest.

“I haven’t actually counted, but … I think she was the youngest,” he responded, when asked how he rated his chances.