The PPP’s pity party

Published: June 5, 2012

fasi.zaka@tribune.com.pk

Cracking jokes at a funeral wouldn’t go down well. It’s misjudging the audience entirely. It seems that the PPP has been doing just that recently, unable to gauge the mood of Pakistan.

The PPP’s grand narrative has always been that it’s a victim of a non-representative establishment, that its sacrifices can be measured in its blood spilled. There is, of course, a lot of truth to this. It also partly explains why it is such a good party when it sits in the opposition benches; it fits perfectly into the persuasive argument that it has been victimised because it champions the voiceless.

This falls apart when it is in government, especially this time around. The PPP is given to making noises about being the victim, even now as it’s a powerful entity with a pacified army and an ineffectual but needling Supreme Court. It rings hollow when one has a majority in parliament and the vast dispensation of the government at its disposal.

Of course, one of the reasons it chooses to keep parroting the victim line is to preempt moves by the army and the judiciary. In so far as that is concerned, it’s a valid strategy given their partisanship. But the line the party pushes to the electorate to shore support against the possible moves of those two organs of state is not easily delineated from its poor record of governance, which in fact aggravates voters.

To the lower and middle classes, it becomes a case of heightened cognitive dissonance when the most powerful element of society in government claims to be the underdog. It’s putting the elites in the verbal garb of the working classes — but the language is weak and skimpy, revealing too much.

While the army and the Supreme Court continue to pick their battles with the government, the fact is that they are relatively circumspect in playing an absolute endgame and this is an advantage for the PPP. The two institutions seem to know that the era for explicitly bringing down the dispensation of democracy is over at least for now, if not forever.

While the PPP battles moves against it by the forces and the judiciary, this should be no excuse for its appallingly poor record of governance and of running the country. In its interactions with the media or the public, the PPP comes across as addicts to ad hocism, bereft of any real strategy. Their two main articulations, ‘democracy is the best revenge’ and ‘reconciliation’, are not indicative of any grand vision. In fact, reconciliation remains the more widely abused term of the two. The PPP has used it to justify the wide berth and low standards expected of their legislators and coalition partners.

While the party remains true to form as a progressive party not given to the emotional mumbo jumbo of the nationalists, it is in government at a time when there have been atrocious incidents against minorities and continuing bouts of sectarian violence. The PPP is not moving decisively partly because it does not want to anger the army, somewhat pacified by extensions. The PPP is not abducting the Baloch, but it is watching it happen and doing nothing to stop it.

Because of the preeminence of the victimhood doctrine, the Peoples Party has been poor in championing successes it has had. In its extraordinarily difficult first two years of its current term, which would have crippled any other government, there has been a relative stabilisation in security and the economy, or at the very least, the seemingly breakneck downward spiral has slowed. Whether this stabilisation can be attributed solely to the party being at the helm is another question altogether.

In the media, the PPP does enjoy one luxury and that is support in some quarters largely because the other option — doing away with democracy — is untenable. That said, the victimhood doctrine preempts the necessary evaluation that could be posed by a legitimate critique of poor performance which is sidetracked by questioning the motives of those making the criticism.

Despite all of this, at this stage it looks like the PPP will be assured another term thanks to a perfect storm of variables in its favour. One, the PTI and the PML-N are more focused against each other than the incumbents and two, the PPP is likely to use this budget as a populist tool. A last push to appease voters through better governance doesn’t seem to be on the cards, and if the PPP is voted in the next time round it won’t bode well because to its leadership, this will appear as if incompetence has been rewarded. Be it railways, electricity, law and order, the list is endless.

The fact is, the PPP needs to lose this election. First for the country, they need to get their act together and the only spur to that would be voters expressing disenchantment. Second, it needs to survive as a party because of its comparatively national nature. Compelling as the idea may be to its leadership, the steam engine of government does not run on empty rhetoric. The unprecedented rise in poverty can only be stemmed with a strong government that has vision, not one that thinks printing money is a solution.

Rather than listening to the blunderbuss that is Rehman Malik and others, the party could do well to pay heed to Bashir Bilour, who said at a cabinet meeting, “Forget about the next elections if you keep providing people an excuse to burn effigies of politicians in protest against 16-18 hours of power cuts.” Exactly.

Published In The Express Tribune, June 6th, 2012. 

Reader Comments (45)

  • Ejaaz
    Jun 5, 2012 - 10:05PM

    PPP will win. Zardari will be President for five more years.

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  • Ordinary Villager
    Jun 5, 2012 - 10:07PM

    ET is second name of bashing of Army in every manner. All of the columnists are the mouth Piece of only one thing and that is they prove everything to prove that PPP is the best despite some problems while Army is an Evil .It is my advise to the Ultra Elite which represents less than 0.00001 percent of Pakistan and many of them are ET readers along with Indian trolls which will visit this forum of ET shortly for Pakistan bashing that see the moods on the streets. People are still reminiscent of the days of Musharraf and they call it the best days for Pakistan which was obviously the dictatorship . Ordinary people give a damn about democracy and for them Pakistan Army and Musharraf was far better choice than this Corrupt government and still they have more respect for Army than PPP or any other political group of Pakistan

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  • Asad Shairani
    Jun 5, 2012 - 10:19PM

    The level of governance this term has been absolutely pathetic, non existent in fact. They have the strongest mandate – in the sense that changes brought about by them are long lasting and acceptable by most, but they have time and again proved themselves incapable of governing the country. No matter how progressive their views are, its better if they take some time off and reflect on the damage they’ve caused the country in the last 5 years.

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  • Khalq e Khuda
    Jun 5, 2012 - 10:25PM

    Dear Mr Zaka,

    Your column is untimely. The budget was already out on 1st June and it was anything but populist leading one columnist to comment that it shows the confidence of an impending electoral win.

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  • hamza khan
    Jun 5, 2012 - 10:30PM

    @Ordinary Villager:

    inshallah president musharraf will be returning to pakistan soon. all pakistanis should support him again this time and give him a chance to save the country from looters and plunderers.

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  • Ordinary Villager
    Jun 5, 2012 - 11:02PM

    @hamza khan: Sorry but atleast no to Musharraf anymore. A real warrior never run away but Musharraf became a minnow and left Pakistan in the hour of need. For the past four years he is enjoying cool breezes of Europe There are many people more brave enough right now to replace him. A leader never loses its turf and never runs away when the time arises. Musharraf was the leader in the past but now he has lost its respect as a leader.

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  • elementary
    Jun 5, 2012 - 11:10PM

    There is nothing progressive about PPP.last five year performance is enough proof of this. It will lose the next election ,for pakistan, and their can’t be bigger reason than this.

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  • faraz
    Jun 5, 2012 - 11:15PM

    @Ordinary Villager

    Yes, Musharraf has real grass root support. His APML has members in every village and town of the country. PPP is an elitist party with support from only 0.00001 percent of the population, so it has to rely on extra constitutional means to get into power.

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  • Nauman
    Jun 5, 2012 - 11:19PM

    Is PPP more popular and strong than Musharraf?? Cmon,Fassi.

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  • dr j tipu
    Jun 5, 2012 - 11:45PM

    I have started calling it Pakistans Pathetic Party

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  • Parvez
    Jun 6, 2012 - 12:01AM

    Nice opinion piece.

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  • Maryam
    Jun 6, 2012 - 12:31AM

    @fasi zaka: First: Hope you have gone through the budget as it is already out. Can you inform your reader how the budget was populist? Second: Can you back up your article with the figures/facts of ‘unprecedented rise in poverty’ during PPP government. For your info, PPP is the first government which move economic policy from un-targeted subsidies to the targeted one like that of BISP and others. BISP as an anti-poverty program was accredited best so far in Pakistan by the international agencies such as ADB and World Bank. Third: How you can ignore things on the front of political reforms such as 18th amendment, NFC award, Independence election commission & zero political prisoners with unbridled Media & Judiciary. Lastly: This victim hood excuse you put in the mouth of PPP is not ‘appeasing’ to PPP. The moment we stop victimizing PPP, the next movement PPP will not be awarded with this victim-hood card. I have others things to say by later on!

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  • Taimoor Ashraf
    Jun 6, 2012 - 1:02AM

    A sound and strong analysis from a centrist perspective which will go down well with those readers who do not have a predisposed position. If the PPP does win again, imagine what the people of central Punjab and other industrial hubs of the country would have to go through! Shahbaz Sharif is already making parochial statements. Another 5 years for PPP is sure recipe of disaster!

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  • Raja Islam
    Jun 6, 2012 - 1:41AM

    @Ordinary Villager:
    It depends on where the village is. If you are from a village in Punjab, then maybe this is true. Anywhere else the view would be totally opposite.

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  • Raja Islam
    Jun 6, 2012 - 1:42AM

    @hamza khan:
    Musharraf was not only a dictator but a looter and plunderer as well. I would rather see elected looters and plunderers then unelected ones.

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  • Ben
    Jun 6, 2012 - 1:54AM

    @Ordinary Villager. The masses still count the army as a savior of the first choice and last resort. I fully agree with you.

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  • Ali
    Jun 6, 2012 - 2:29AM

    There you go. Fasi Zaka would write same stuff what Nadeem Paracha does for dawn. He will hurt us the same way Paracha does.

    Liberalism is a curse.

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  • Kamran
    Jun 6, 2012 - 3:04AM

    PPP is not worth wasting your time writing about them.. neither is out time so useless to read this…

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  • asim
    Jun 6, 2012 - 3:37AM

    @maryam: please look at the last budget and tell us if the budget is an accurate document that can be taken at face value of what the ppp plans to do and what it actualy does with the economy. Then look up state bank governor’s multiple warnings of how the country is actually being financed. Lastly if still unconvinced read drm ashfaque ahmed khan’s recent analysis of the budget. After that, if your conscience permits, continue defending the ppp.

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  • Faisal
    Jun 6, 2012 - 3:49AM

    I too like the writer find myself disillusioned as a liberal with the PPP, ideological affinity matters for little when one can do little to deliver on it, or as the PPP has done by making things worse

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  • kinbintin
    Jun 6, 2012 - 7:02AM

    Pacified army? Beg to differ.

    “Woh gaye kab thay, kay aab aayen gaay?”

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  • kinbintin
    Jun 6, 2012 - 7:04AM

    One can hope that they lose to this election, but lose it to whom?

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  • Zalim Singh
    Jun 6, 2012 - 7:44AM

    good

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  • Seema
    Jun 6, 2012 - 8:50AM

    @Ben: Really! do you think army is savior, would you kindly enlightened me… which battle they won for Pakistan??? Dont you remember our 5th strongest army melted down like a wax, with one phone call from American foreign office.

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  • Ordinary Villager
    Jun 6, 2012 - 9:08AM

    @Raja Islam: I recently visited Karachi and even Peshawar and the Opinion is same. People of Karachi are on the same page like people of Punjab while people of Internal Sindh are so ignorant that they dont even know the name of their own chief minister of Sindh and same is the case with Balochistan and parts of KPK.

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  • Mirza
    Jun 6, 2012 - 9:22AM

    A great and balanced Op Ed, thanks for your fair commentary on the state of affairs in Pakistan. I agree with you that the current PPP leadership is more interested in winning the next election rather than winning the hearts and minds of masses. They need to go back to the basics which have made this party as the only national party. Recommend

  • Amir Nasiruddin
    Jun 6, 2012 - 10:37AM

    @Ejaaz: Inshallah

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  • anticorruption
    Jun 6, 2012 - 11:21AM

    If the PPP wins the next election, it will be very bad for the country as well as the future of democracy. The middle class has repeatedly been told to let the political process work and improve over time. This is one reason why this govt has been allowed to continue despite its extreme level of corruption and incompetence. If the PPP returns to power again, it will be too much for the suffering middle class and the urban poor to put up with. So we will see the issue of corruption being unavoidably taken to the streets as the last resort if the electoral process does not kick the PPP out. For this reason, one can only hope that the PPP loses the elections, or we are going to see a lot of turbulance.

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  • Naveed Javed
    Jun 6, 2012 - 1:07PM

    PPP is the only party of federation and if its not selected this time- They’ll rise big next time- This is what PPP all about, an ideology which will never die!

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  • Riaz Khan
    Jun 6, 2012 - 1:25PM

    In PK unfortunately real issues are not discussed & majority does not know what is good or bad for them. Besides if you look at alternatives there is not much to choose therefore better to go with incumbents.

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  • sane voice
    Jun 6, 2012 - 5:29PM

    @Naveed Javed: can you please bear some pain and enlighten us about the ideology of PPP. And please no crap of roti…….kapra……..makan and islamic socialism etc. etc. our nation has already waisted too much time on these.

    Do you really think PPP or for that matter any of our political party wins elections on the basis of ideology……..

    getting electable candidates (who change their directions with the change in wind)……….getting big landlords………..and putting bags full of money in election campgain……..making it right with establishment………..fake election list……….election riggings….. are these ideolgical beacons?

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  • elementary
    Jun 6, 2012 - 6:39PM

    @Maryam:
    BISP is a biggest farce ,It’s not an anti poverty measure but more like a vote buying exercise(cf: laptop schemes by Sharifs).

    In latin america it was linked with social indicators such as children vaccination or eduction etc. and that was the only longterm benefit that accrued form it there.In pakistan there is no such link.

    “Unbridled media and judiciary”; nice choice of words to depict your mentality. Media and judiciary were free before PPP came into power and it was imposssible for weak(lacking popular support) government like PPP to “bridle” them,even if they wanted to.

    Last but not least if it wants to avoid being victimized how about gaining strength by doing something for the betterment of people and improving their socioeconomic conditions for a change;equipped with people power no body will dare victimize it again,Remember your leader used to say “people are the source of all power” Awam taaqat ka sarchashma hain”.

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  • Ordinary Villager
    Jun 6, 2012 - 7:20PM

    @Naveed Javed: All over the world Ideology means Principles upon which someone stand. In Pakistan Ideology means Opportunism, injustice and farce and PPP is really following that ideology. Tomorrow I am sure PPP could reveal anytime that in Nazi Death Camps of Second world war many PPP jialas were killed only because Hitler hate Bhutto and this proves that PPP was the victim even in the second world war.

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  • mrk
    Jun 6, 2012 - 7:33PM

    Just the fact that we feel the need to have this discussion despite having witnessed the worst 5 years of our history where the nation is fast heading in the direction of sub-saharan nations leads me to believe that:
    We are doomed; Doomed for our ignorence; doomed for our stupidity; doomed for lacking the intellect of an 8th grader despite having attained all those degrees – the one art that our elite excels at.

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  • Maryam
    Jun 6, 2012 - 8:11PM

    @elementary: I must say you don’t know any thing about BISP. It is better you consult to the program website to know what BISP does & how it does! http://bisp.gov.pk/Recommend

  • elementary
    Jun 6, 2012 - 9:07PM

    @Maryam:
    65% of the kids of the beneficiary families are not going to schools( The News 14th apri 2012l).
    As I mentioned receiving income is not linked to families sending their children to school/vaccination etc or learning vocational skills to earn for themselves,so there is absolutely zero longterm benefit.

    PPP MNA’s were nominating there own beneficiaries untill ADB intervened and forced them to use Poverty scorecard to determine beneficiaries which excluded one million previous beneficiaries.

    Besides such schemes are only temporizing measures untill better ecenomic growth can be achieved; when rest of your economic policies are skyrocketing the inflation and increasing the unemployment,pushing more people below poverty lines such measures are just another burden( Rs 70 billion!!! for this year) on economy without any real benefit, except of course buying you the votes of the beneficiaries.

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  • Maryam
    Jun 6, 2012 - 9:51PM

    @elementary: Come on! Now don’t tell me that Jang Group has done a nation-wide representative survey of the beneficiary households. Initially the program was launched through parliamentarians because rising inflation hit the poorest of the poor very badly & they needed immediate support. Moreover the name Benazir Income Support Program does not mean that only PPP parliamentarians distribute the forms. In fact all parliamentarians in Senate, NA & PA were given equal number of forms to be distributed in their respective districts from both the opposition and ruling parties & even independent candidates. And also let me tell you that Parliamentarian distributions of forms among poor was far better then the one through PSC! Your argument that only Growth can tackle the poverty is very contested in the poverty literature & in case of Pakistan no trickle down of growth to the poorest happens. Yes the program need to be reformed which they are doing & it should not be stopped as for a poor family of Rs 5000 monthly income, 1000 rupees is a BIG BIG amount to have their food intake proper plus sending their children to school instead of child labour. Any way, no other party can claim that it is pro-poor except PPP which throughout its rule cater for the most underprivileged.

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  • elementary
    Jun 6, 2012 - 11:43PM

    @Maryam:
    Around 60 per cent of Pakistan’s 170 million people live at the poverty level of less than $2 per day, according to the World Bank report.In contrast people living below the poverty line in 2008 were17.2%. Inflation rate has been in double digits throughout PPP governement. meaning 1000 Rs dished out are increasingly less valueable.

    70 billion for this sham of a programme called BISP and compare this with 16 billion for education and health each. What does that tell you about PPP policies: keep them illeterate ,unhealthy and poor and dependent on our grant ,so that they remain our slaves/voters forever.

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  • Maryam
    Jun 7, 2012 - 2:10AM

    @elementary: Janab, for your information both Health & Education are now provincial matter under the 18th amendment to the constitution! So the budget to both sectors comes from provinces. On the other hand, State has to take care of the vulnerable among the poor for which conditional or un-conditional cash transfer is a practice throughout Latin America, South Asia & Sub-saharan Africa! Let me admit, though, that it is not a panacea for all ills confronted by the poor. There is an urgent need to reduce defense budget and appropriate those resources to Health & Education. But let me tell you, that no civilian Government can do that! So hum issee tara hee roltay rahaingaing!

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  • elementary
    Jun 7, 2012 - 1:40PM

    @Maryam:
    For my information could you also tell me how much is bduget allocation for education from provinicial PPP government in sindh.You will beat about the bush but not accept that your party has got it’s priorities wrong ,—terribly wrong.

    Cutting defence budget and diverting it to education /health is one option or you could stop misappropriating funds,put an end to high level corruption and divert those funds to education and health.

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  • anticorruption
    Jun 7, 2012 - 4:21PM

    @elementary

    Very well said. Also note that the defense budget is about Rs. 550 b. Even if it’s cut, at best it might save something like 100-200b? In contrast, the losses of govt owned corporations like PIA alone are about 300b or so.

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  • Maryam
    Jun 7, 2012 - 5:38PM

    @elementary: No: I am only saying that in comparison to different other regimes (including PML-N & dictators), PPP did fairly well for the poorest of the poor. You just need to accept that & yes i had very high expectations from PPP government but I also know the difficulties they faced since day 1. It is all status quo (Media, Juddiciary, Military, Imran & NS) Vs PPP. Hope & pray that in the next term Zardari himself take the charge of driving seat to gear Pakistan out of troubles.

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  • elementary
    Jun 7, 2012 - 8:18PM

    @Maryam:
    So judiciary and military twisted their arms to make them do all this financial misappropriation ,misgovernance and corruption.IK and NS urged them to get their priorities wrong, ignore education and health,collapse Steel Mills,Wapda ,PIA,Railways and concentrate on filling their own coffers.
    This has been one of the worst govenments ever economically,politically and socially.
    Political faith is blinder than the mullah faith.

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  • Taz
    Jun 8, 2012 - 8:12AM

    Scaring the voters, by saying that PPP will come into power again because of a new third force is just like scaring a kid to sleep or else a monster will come. This is how democracy works, anyone can have a party and anyone can participate in elections. its the people who should be smart enough to decide which party to vote and if people are not able to do this, let the democracy continue, people will learn by experience.
    Though people have learnt a lot after bearing this PPP govt for 5 years. If they still dont learn their lesson, then let them be punished for 5 more years.

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  • haroun rashid
    Jun 8, 2012 - 2:00PM

    A good, well balanced article. Only problem is that one cant find any good, well balanced people in the PPP who might read and heed it.

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