The party is over — literally

The leading intellectuals and democrats whom Bhutto favoured have been replaced with an entirely different breed.

Mahreen Khan July 22, 2011

“Zinda hai BB, zinda hai BB” is the rallying cry of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) jiyalas. Since the former prime minister Benazir Bhutto has been deceased for over three years, the slogan presumably is meant to convey that her ideology and spirit live on in the party she left behind. Unfortunately, the party which she held together over many years in exile and through deeply traumatic times has undergone a major transformation since her death. The leading intellectuals and democrats whom Bhutto favoured have been replaced with an entirely different breed.

The succession of a party which claims to have ‘restored democracy’ to Pakistan was through a handwritten letter, apparently bequeathing the political party to her widower, Asif Ali Zardari, as co-chairman, with her adolescent son. Some commentators were suspicious about the veracity of the letter and did not agree with the choice of successor. Many party insiders had then reported that Ms Bhutto had vowed to quarantine her third government from Zardari’s influence.

If so, then the current complexion of the PPP could not be further from what Benazir Bhutto had envisioned for a future PPP government. Most of her closest confidantes have been sidelined, even victimised. Naheed Khan, Safdar Abbassi and Amin Fahim sat beside Bhutto on that fateful journey, surviving the bomb blast unscathed, yet ironically falling victim to humiliation and machinations within the party. Prominent figures like Raza Rabbani, Aitzaz Ahsan, Sherry Rehman and Shah Mahmood Qureshi are no longer in key positions. They, and others like them, have either resigned or been relegated.

Raza Rabbani, whose intellect, conscientiousness and commitment to his principles are widely respected, resigned from his ministerial post in May this year citing differences over compromises made on the 18th Amendment to accommodate the PML-Q. Sherry Rehman resigned over her government’s harsh treatment of the media, sections of which are engaged in a bitter confrontation with the presidency. Aitzaz Ahsan has been sidelined, his influence on party policy rendered negligible.

Shah Mehmood Qureshi, who was handling a difficult portfolio with considerable finesse, was shunted out of the foreign ministry for taking a stand against the government’s management of the Raymond Davis case. Qureshi’s crucial post lay vacant for six months only to be filled by a foreign policy debutante. Hina Khar, aged 34, is a graduate in hotel management and a former minister of state for economic affairs (later foreign affairs), inducted by Shaukat Aziz. Khar has been on many official foreign visits since she entered politics in 2002 to take on her father’s feudal constituency. Those trips and a hasty six-month initiation as the state foreign minister represent the sum total of her interaction with international diplomacy and statecraft. Her lack of experience and professional credentials will be stark against counterparts with the profiles of like Hillary Clinton.

The fact that someone with such a junior standing was chosen for such a key post over party veterans is reflective of a calculated policy. Those with substantial intellectual or political weight have been systematically removed or their positions made untenable, altering the complexion of the party’s upper echelons. The PPP’s vanguard, like Benazir Bhutto herself, used to be highly educated, urbane and liberal, despite their feudal backgrounds. The path to success in the current PPP is instead dominated by those whose intellect is modest, whose principles are malleable, and whose ethos is confrontational. Instead of the Raza Rabbanis, Shah Mehmoods and Aitzaz Ahsans, the ascendancy has been for the likes of Rehman Malik, whose incompetence is astounding, and Zulfiqar Mirza, whose opinions and behaviour have the potential to be incendiary. Many people in the party in senior posts have, at various times, employed profanity, invective and inflammatory rhetoric against the leaders of the PML-Q, PML-N and the MQM.

This politics of aggression and confrontation is a betrayal of Benazir Bhutto’s legacy. Bhutto’s final book, published posthumously, reflected her deep desire to foster a new era of democracy in Pakistan and the Muslim world, with values of respect, understanding and reconciliation. Most of what Benazir Bhutto stood for and hoped for has been buried with her. The rallying cry of the party rings desperately hollow.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 23rd, 2011.


Rao Amjad Ali | 11 years ago | Reply

Re: Meekal Ahmed

While the chastened art of public speaking is always an asset for a public office holder but Pakistan’s economy needs improvements in competitiveness, economic governance, curtailment of moral hazard and a host of well planned macroeconomic interventions which, I suspect, might have a weak correlation with a state minister’s speechmaking ability.

If you look at the performance of our past economic managers of 50 years, you will quickly come to the painful conclusion that it has been pretty much the same with pre-scripted budget rotated over 50 years.

The need for portraying a soft image of Pakistan in the post 9/11 environment cannot be overemphasized for which, I believe, Ms. Khar can be very effective.

Hedgefunder | 11 years ago | Reply

@Shania: If these are propogandas than wait till you actually can see the writing on the wall, as that may be even more depressing and unpleasant reading!!! Do note that time does not stop for anyone, hence hope your nation can do do U turn in time, otherwise you may just wonder what happened to it!!!! The sad fact is that, The nation may not even exist in near future in its present form !!!

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