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O-Level students get up close and personal with the textbook BB

KARACHI, Oct 22: Most youngsters who are part of Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) or support it have mostly only encountered Benazir Bhutto on the pages of books or on the Internet. But this has not deterred many of them from backing her because their elders have made sure they are well conversant with the party's ideology.

"The number of children that you must have seen on TV during the rally should be a good enough example that we PPP fellows grew up in an environment that enabled us to respect BB the same way as we respect Fatima Jinnah," said Haseeb Chandio, an O-levels student.

Nineteen-year-old Jam Usman, an A-Level student, recalled staying up all night waiting for the poll results to be announced. "My father has been with the PPP for as long as I can remember. I have grown up with the excitement of elections and seeing MNAs and MPAs from all over the province coming in to see my father at odd hours." Usman comes from a well-known political family and has a strong sense of loyalty towards the PPP, the reason for which, he says, is not Benazir herself. "It is not so much Benazir who is an icon for me, but it is the party, which has been a part of my upbringing even though it has remained relatively inactive over the last few years." He said in his immediate and extended family, every child grew up a staunch PPP supporter and had some kind of a direct link with the Bhutto family. He hopes to follow in the footsteps of his father and uncles who are all politicians and become one himself one day.

However, this sentiment seems to be part of only those who have grown up with politics as a way of life. Others do not know much about Benazir as a leader and do not have any particular liking for the party either.

"She is making all the right promises and saying all the right things, and I don't see anyone else getting as much importance at the moment but hearsay tells me differently about her when she was in power. Of course what matters is not what she has done in the past but what she can do for the future," said Hussain Ghaznavi, another A-level student. He felt people really wanted her to return and it seemed like the right thing at the moment because Musharraf, who he believed had done a good job as president, was also in agreement with her.

Most of Hussain's fellow students were also supportive of President Musharraf and believed Benazir Bhutto could be the perfect choice if they were working together.

One of them, however, felt skeptical a woman could lead. "I don't think a woman as a leader is a very good idea," said Talib Rizvi. "Women are generally more emotional and even Islam says two women make one witness. It's just the way God has made them and I for one don't see a woman in charge as a very good idea." He substantiated his rationale by using Benazir herself as an example. "She had her chance twice and hasn't been seen since and now suddenly she is back for the elections. Isn't that a little dodgy?" he questioned. Talib also commented on the slogan "Benazir aaye gi, rozgar laye gi" and said what good would jobs do for the people who had lost a family member because of the bomb blasts at Bhutto's reception rally. "If people keep dying because of the rallies she will be conducting over the next two months, what do the poor stand to gain from the jobs she creates if she comes to power? The people who have died have families who are now suffering in so many ways, all because they felt the need to support not the country but a leader who may or may not come into power in the next two months. That's very irresponsible."

Tazeen Bari, 18, said she didn't know Benazir except for the general history of Pakistani leaders but after the bomb blasts and the death of so many people, she thinks Benazir should be disallowed from even contesting the elections. "I am horrified at how a political leader can put the lives of innocent people at stake just to make a show of her popularity. Her speech could have more effectively been communicated through a press conference as was done later on anyways."

However, 16-year-old Aurangzeb Ghaznavi had a very important point to make. "If people don't start thinking for themselves and just follow in the footsteps and schools of thought of their elders, which are fast becoming obsolete like our politicians, the next generation to come into power will repeat the mistakes and it will become a vicious cycle." Daily Times

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