Prom­ises Un­ful­filled

The PPP be­gan as a party that cared for the un­der­priv­i­leged classes. That this never be­came a re­al­ity is a fact of his­tory. The party is now hardly a con­tender for na­tional lead­er­ship and it seems both Asif Ali Zar­dari and Bi­lawal Bhutto are least both­ere

Southasia - - CONTENTS - By Huza­ima Bukhari & Dr. Ikra­mul Haq

When the Pak­istan Peo­ples Party ( PPP) was founded in 1967 in La­hore, Zul­fikar Ali Bhutto was elected as its Chair­man at the first con­ven­tion. The party is now strug­gling hard to re­gain its sta­tus of the largest na­tional party. The main stum­bling block, ac­cord­ing to many, is the per­cep­tion that the PPP has been ren­dered as noth­ing but “Zar­dari League” and the even en­er­getic young Bi­lawal Bhutto can­not take any de­ci­sion in­de­pen­dently as Chair­man. The his­toric strug­gle of the party against un­con­sti­tu­tional rule and its strug­gle for less-priv­i­leged classes was once its hall­mark and iden­tity. It is now a mat­ter of past glory for many crit­ics and cyn­ics in­side and out­side the party.

The found­ing con­ven­tion where Zul­fikar Ali Bhutto pre­sented the party’s man­i­festo was at­tended amongst oth­ers by Dr. Mubashir Has­san, Shaikh M. Rashid, Tu­fail Abbas and stu­dent leader Mairaj Muham­mad Khan. The so­cial­ist ide­ol­ogy — in those days very pop­u­lar in the Third World coun­tries — was adopted by the PPP as its eco­nomic agenda af­ter fus­ing with what it called the Is­lamic con­cept of equal­ity. Peo­ple like Hanif Ra­may of­fered a “mid­dle-ground.” This was a fu­sion of the ‘left’ ide­ol­ogy with a so-called ‘pro­gres­sive Is­lam.’ This was a vague term and was un­sci­en­tific but the tra­di­tional ex­pla­na­tion has al­ways been that “PPP doesn’t come out look­ing like an athe­is­tic/com­mu­nist party.” This ex­pla­na­tion is yet to be an­a­lysed sci­en­tif­i­cally by any scholar from so­cio-politico-eco­nomic stand­points. One can say with­out fear of con­tra­dic­tion that from the be­gin­ning, PPP has had a con­fused ide­ol­ogy.

Bhutto, as com­monly be­lieved, was not a so­cial­ist or pro­gres­sive leader. He re­versed the process of in­dus­tri­al­i­sa­tion, gave the up­per hand to mil­i­tary-ju­di­cial-civil com­plex and never es­tab­lished

the supremacy of work­ing classes. He cre­ated a state oli­garchy and turned Pak­istan into a quasi-theo­cratic state through the 1973 Con­sti­tu­tion. The in­her­ent con­tra­dic­tions in the man­i­festo and poli­cies of PPP are still lin­ger­ing. Pak­istan, there­fore, lacks any mean­ing­ful ex­is­tence of left pol­i­tics. As time passed, per­sons like Hanif Ra­may and Maulana Kausar Ni­azi suc­cess­fully man­aged to counter the left­ist el­e­ments who slowly quit, leav­ing room for op­por­tunists to hi­jack the once vi­brant mass-based party. Pop­ulist so­cial­ist the­ory and Is­lamic egal­i­tar­i­an­ism were just ploys used by Bhutto and there was no com­mit­ment to es­tab­lish a sys­tem of equal­ity and jus­tice.

The dic­ta­to­rial mind­set of Bhutto and his po­lit­i­cal shenani­gans cou­pled with per­sonal idio­syn­cra­sies forced the de­feat of “left­ists’ in the party. Zul­fikar Ali Bhutto be­came an au­to­cratic ruler and feu­dal el­e­ments like Makhdum Muham­mad Za­man, Ghu­lam Mustafa Khar, Ra­sul Bakhsh Talpur, Mum­taz Bhutto, Mustafa Ja­toi, just to men­tion a few, started dom­i­nat­ing the party. For them, ide­ol­ogy had lit­tle value and rap­proche­ment to­wards the mil­i­tary and the rul­ing elite was more im­por­tant. The back­track­ing of the PPP lead­er­ship from orig­i­nal pro-peo­ple pro­grammes ul­ti­mately led to an­other mil­i­tary coup in 1977 and Zia proved so ruth­less that he ma­noeu­vred the ju­di­cial mur­der of Zul­fikar Ali Bhutto in 1979.

Right or wrong there is a wide­spread per­cep­tion — for many even a be­lief — that Asif Ali Zar­dari, dur­ing the life­time of Be­nazir Bhutto and af­ter her as­sas­si­na­tion, caused greater harm to the party com­pared to Gen­eral Zi­aul Haq and Gen­eral Mushar­raf, the main ad­ver­saries, as well as the Mus­lim League-N. The five year rule (2008-2013) un­der Zar­dari’s lead­er­ship proved so dam­ag­ing that in the May 2013 elec­tions, PPP was re­stricted to just Sindh. For the Zar­dari camp in­side the party, this was a “golden era.” Af­ter all, for the first time in Pak­istani pol­i­tics, a smooth tran­si­tion took place, the prov­inces were given au­ton­omy un­der the Eigh­teenth Con­sti­tu­tional Amend­ment and peace­ful co-ex­is­tence was achieved with the Op­po­si­tion. Zar­dari and his de­fend­ers are of the view that the fu­ture of the PPP is very bright un­der Bi­lawal Bhutto as the main ri­val party PML (Nawaz) is los­ing pop­u­lar­ity in the wake of the Panama cri­sis.

The PPP that was once con­sid­ered as a pro­gres­sive and lib­eral party at the na­tional level is now re­duced to a force in Sindh alone, where too it has mis­er­ably failed to de­liver. Karachi — the eco­nomic hub of Pak­istan — un­der PPP rule has been fac­ing se­ri­ous law and or­der is­sues and has been re­duced to an ur­ban night­mare. The old timers in the party are pin­ning their hopes on Bi­lawal Bhutto for the PPP’s re­vival but he has no stand­ing in the pres­ence of Asif Zar­dari. Ob­serves Dr. Aye­sha Sid­diqa: “Bi­lawal is cer­tainly youth­ful and a good learner. But more than pre­sen­ta­tion, he and his min­ders must fo­cus on the con­tent which ought to re­flect sen­si­tiv­ity to­wards or­di­nary folk whose ev­ery­day life gets se­verely af­fected by com­mod­ity prices and lack of re­sources. It is easy for these peo­ple to get tempted to­wards other in­sti­tu­tions if the ones that are sup­posed to de­liver do not do so. As is ob­vi­ous from the pol­i­tics of ru­ral Sindh, the or­di­nary folk are more will­ing to fol­low ex­trem­ist and right-wing forces be­cause they may be the only ones that seem to have the gun-power to chal­lenge the tra­di­tional power struc­tures. These ex­trem­ist forces that are the neo-feu­dal of the area have even at­tracted part­ners from other po­lit­i­cal par­ties in­clud­ing the PPP.”

The dilemma of the PPP re­mains the same since the day of its in­cep­tion. It is not ready to mo­bilise the masses for dis­man­tling elit­ist struc­tures. To the con­trary, it re­lies like other par­ties on tra­di­tional power struc­tures — the feu­dal fam­i­lies of the coun­try. Even to­day, the of­fi­cial web­site of the PPP says that the big­gest achieve­ment of Zar­dari was im­ple­men­ta­tion “of the Char­ter of Democ­racy (CoD) in its let­ter and spirit.” The CoD, signed by Be­nazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif on May 14, 2006, in Lon­don, is an agree­ment that peo­ple say en­sures per­pet­u­a­tion of an­tipeo­ple rule in the name of democ­racy and if the PPP still glo­ri­fies it, how can it de­feat the PML (Nawaz), a party that rep­re­sents money power and is an ar­dent de­fender of the sta­tus quo of the sys­tem of ex­ploita­tion.

The crit­ics of Zar­dari say that since the as­sas­si­na­tion of Be­nazir Bhutto, the PPP has been turned into his per­sonal fief­dom — like Nawaz Sharif who is a sym­bol of money power. They say the party lacks a lead­er­ship ca­pa­ble of pulling the coun­try out of the pre­vail­ing mess. The PPP gov­ern­ment in Sindh is not de­liv­er­ing. Dur­ing the PPP’s five-year rule un­der Asif Ali Zar­dari, cor­rup­tion reached new heights, mal­ad­min­is­tra­tion spread like wild fire, law and or­der de­te­ri­o­rated to un­think­able lev­els, in­sti­tu­tional con­fronta­tions ac­cel­er­ated and eco­nomic woes of the peo­ple mul­ti­plied many times, just to men­tion some dis­as­trous out­comes. Many say that PPP is still lucky that its suc­ces­sor is also fol­low­ing its foot­steps. The PPP can strike back in the 2018 elec­tions as the PML (Nawaz) and Pak­istan Tehreek-i-In­saf (PTI) have also proved that they have nei­ther any prag­matic pro­grammes nor com­pe­tent peo­ple to solve fun­da­men­tal prob­lems faced by Pak­istan and its peo­ple.

Re­al­is­ti­cally speak­ing, in to­day’s Pak­istan there is not a sin­gle leader who matches the vi­sion and de­ter­mi­na­tion of Zul­fikar Ali Bhutto and Be­nazir Bhutto to re­gain what we have lost do­mes­ti­cally and in­ter­na­tion­ally. Even if the PPP wins the elec­tions in 2018, which is a re­mote pos­si­bil­ity, there is no hope for the masses be­cause it will not ful­fil prom­ises made by its found­ing fa­thers. It is no more the party of masses but an elit­ist and feu­dal party like the PML (Nawaz) or the PTI.

The writ­ers, lawyers and part­ners in HUZA­IMA IKRAM & IJAZ, are Ad­junct Fac­ulty at the La­hore Univer­sity of Man­age­ment Sciences (LUMS).

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