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Bilawal Bhutto: The Oxford Elections
by Rajesh Talwar Bookmark and Share

The Hari Putar Dialogues - 46

(The Tribune ; 24 February ; Islamabad: Bilawal Bhutto, the 20-year-old son of slain former Pakistani premier Benazir Bhutto who is likely to contest student elections at Oxford Union Society next week, has been nicknamed "Mr. Ten Percent Jr." by spoof writers. 'A freshly shaven and widely beaming Asif Ali Zardari hosted a dinner for the international media at one of his many sumptuous London mansions and announced: 'I'm proud to say that my son Bilawal Bhutto, Pak Prez-in-training is contesting the Oxford union polls for the post of treasurer,' read a satirical story titled "Mr. Ten Percent Jr. to run for treasurer post in Oxford union polls"

Putar: There is a report in the Tribune today about Bilawal Bhutto the 20 year old son of former Pakistani premier Benazir Bhutto contesting student elections at the Oxford Union Society.

Hari: Really Putar? What is the story about?

Putar: Some other students are poking fun at him. In England there is a tradition of mocking or making fun of people who run for office. It's all supposed to be taken in good humor. They have published a fictitious report on a college website.

Hari: I don't understand.

Putar: The title of the report reads: "Mr. Ten Percent Jr. to run for treasurer post in Oxford union polls."

Hari: Is this true?

Putar: Yes, it's true that Bilawal is contesting elections but then under this title something else is written which is not true.

Hari: And what is that?

Putar: (reads) 'A freshly shaven and widely beaming Asif Ali Zardari hosted a dinner for the international media at one of his many sumptuous London mansions and announced: 'I'm proud to say that my son Bilawal Bhutto, Pak Prez-in-training is contesting the Oxford union polls for the post of treasurer.' The students are just poking fun. Asif Zardari does look freshly shaven most of the time and he gives wide beaming smile, so that bit is a joke on the father. And then there is a reference to his many sumptuous London mansions.

Hari: Is that true though? Does Zardari have many properties in London?

Putar: It certainly could be true. Sounds likely enough.

Hari: Why have they called Bilal 'Ten Percent Junior'?

Putar: His father, Zardari spent many years in jail on account of being embroiled in a corruption scandal. The allegations of corruption led to him being nick named 'Mr. Ten Percent.'

Hari: So the sins of the father are being visited upon the son.

Putar: Exactly. And don't forget the son is contesting for the post of Treasurer.

Hari: Bilal may have taken after his mother.

Putar: He does look more like his mother. Same nose. But this doesn't matter. This is all supposed to be in good humor.

Hari: But such writings can certainly be very hurtful.

Putar: On the other hand it may be good for him to have other students treating him like an ordinary person who can be made fun of. Back in Pakistan, he is likely to be surrounded all the time by chamchas from the Pakistan Peoples Party.

Hari: His mother died in such tragic circumstances.

Putar: Yes, but that doesn't mean people will always be sympathetic. After all he has chosen to run for Oxford Union elections.

Hari: Just like his mother. He is following in her footsteps.

Putar: Did his mother contest elections in Oxford?

Hari: Yes, she did. I recollect that after graduating from Harvard, Benazir joined Oxford University in the fall of 1973. Just before graduation, Benazir was elected to the Standing Committee of the most prestigious Oxford Union Debating Society. I wonder why the children of important politicians and businessmen in developing countries go to study at places like Oxford and Cambridge?

Putar: There are two reasons, Papaji.

Hari: Yes?

Putar: Firstly, because it gives them a good education, and puts them ahead of the children of other politicians.

Hari: That makes sense.

Putar: And secondly they meet the children of other important politicians and business leaders.

Hari: What's the advantage in that?

Putar: The satire I just read out to you spoke of Zardari calling Bilal a 'President-in-waiting'. In all good satire there is an undercurrent of truth. In Pakistan, India and many other countries, children of important people automatically get very important positions after some years. Bilal will meet the children of important politicians and business leaders from Asia and Africa and in some years these children will become very important people in their countries, and he will know all of them.

Hari: And they will know him.

Putar: It's mutually beneficial. All this is very important from a networking point of view.

Hari: Bilal is already someone very important in the PPP.

Putar: And so are many other students at Oxford who come from powerful and influential families. Some years ago there were newspaper reports about the son of a powerful politician from Malaysia having invited all his class fellows from Cambridge University for a birthday party in Kuala Lumpur.

Hari: What's newsworthy about that?

Putar: The fact that he had an aeroplane chartered to fly them all to his country's capital at his own cost.

Hari: My God!

Putar: Tell me something Papaji?

Hari: Bol, Putar?

Putar: It's well known that the children of important politicians and businessmen go to study in Universities like Cambridge, Oxford and Harvard.

Hari: Yes, of course.

Putar: But these children are not necessarily very bright students and may not have good scores in the school or college they went to before joining Oxford or Cambridge.

Hari: That's true.

Putar: Does this mean that these institutions of higher learning are not merit oriented?

Hari: Not exactly.

Putar: Or is it that even in the world acknowledged bastions of higher learning there are always some seats reserved for the children of the rich and powerful?

Hari: I don't know, Putar.    

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