Is Nawaz the new Bhutto?


A dispassionate analysis

There’s a rich tradition in Pakistan of loving and hating Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, in some cases simultaneously. Laypeople do it as well as politicians, many of whom love to imitate Bhutto, consciously or otherwise. Nawaz Sharif is no exception. He gives clear signs of hating Bhutto’s guts, and it is obvious that there are times he thinks he is Bhutto, or at the very least wants to become Bhutto. Hating yourself is the biggest love of all, Bill Maher once remarked.

And it is not just Nawaz. Recently we have seen many of his supporters behave in such a way that one can easily be forgiven for thinking that it’s Nawaz who was the aggrieved party in the treatment meted out to Bhutto by Zia. That’s how much his followers have suddenly started owning Bhutto. Do they think Nawaz is the new Bhutto? Does he think he is the new Bhutto? Does he consciously try to emulate Bhutto? Does he hate him so much he can’t help it? Is he the new Bhutto?

The similarities are there, whether by chance or by design. Bhutto started his career under Ayub, a military dictator. Nawaz started his under Zia, another military dictator. Bhutto forced Gul Hasan to resign. Nawaz sacked Jahangir Karamat. Bhutto’s rude awakening was caused by Gen Zia, while Nawaz’s nemesis proved to be Gen Musharraf. Bhutto loved suspense and drama. He was rather fond of saying things like, ‘I will disclose what happened at Tashkent.’ Nawaz too loves suspense and drama. He never tires of repeating, ‘I know many things that I will disclose at the appropriate time.’ Bhutto was ambitious. So is Nawaz. Nawaz, like Bhutto, was follicly challenged from an early age.

Now let’s examine the differences between the two, which I believe are much more pronounced: Bhutto was a writer and a voracious reader. It would be safe to say that Nawaz has never read any document in his life – and this probably includes court judgments against him – let alone having written anything, and we must thank God for this.

Bhutto was a master orator who could mesmerise his audience, whether it was a public gathering or the UN Security Council. Nawaz reads from memos written by others. Bhutto was a keen and informed student of history. Nawaz probably thinks Kaiser Permanente is the king of Germany.

Bhutto, after getting deposed by Zia, was forced to spend his next few days in Murree. Nawaz chose to head to Murree after getting disqualified by the Supreme Court. Bhutto, as newly deposed PM, travelled around the country amid adulatory crowds of PPP jiyalas, defying the country’s fiercest Martial Law. Nawaz’s GT road show of ‘defiance’ after being disqualified was held with the help of all the state machinery at the disposal of his party’s Federal, Punjab, and AK, and GB governments.

By all accounts, Bhutto was secure enough to be at peace with his ever-receding hairline. Nawaz was not able to take his baldness in the same spirit and had to resort to hair transplantation. True, that technology didn’t exist in the 70s, but it’s a safe bet that Bhutto, being the fashion icon and a designer’s dream that he was any way, wouldn’t have been interested if it did.

Bhutto left Ayub while the latter was very much in power. Nawaz was singing Zia’s praises long after the latter’s death. He was only obliged to change his stance, albeit selectively and ambivalently, when he was stunned by Musharraf, and later when he felt it wasn’t fashionable to be labelled pro-establishment.

Bhutto’s ambition was always about power and control. He never showed much interest in money-making. He was not averse to returning his family land in his own land reforms. One can accuse Nawaz of many things but never for compromising on the health of his family finances.

Last but not the least, Bhutto didn’t flinch when he found himself in prison, facing hostile courts, and in the end the gallows. When it counted the most, Nawaz preferred the comforts of Jeddah to the Attock Fort and worse. Some might point to this very difference and wonder of what use all that study of history was if it didn’t save Bhutto from getting hanged. But then it may be that preferring the gallows to a dubiously earned freedom is precisely what a true sense of history must demand.

In the light of the above, it would probably be an understatement to say that Nawaz is no Bhutto. Even if one wants to be polite and charitable towards those who compare Nawaz to Bhutto, one can only go so far as saying that Nawaz is an impoverished man’s Bhutto – a cheap imitation if you will. That’s where one draws the line once and for all.


  1. Pakistani ruled by army right from the beginning whenever army feel boring they put any puppet on PM seat called vazire azam,only Bhutto was different otherwise it was army chief who always remain power center. Now imran Khan seems to be next puppet.only two Islamic country Indonesia and Bangladesh has democracy ,otherwise Islam and democracy have no match.

  2. After Bhutto the country never got a decent leader, only carpetbaggers and shopkeepers. And countries never flourish under such rulers.

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