Re-launching the PPP

Published: October 22, 2014
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The writer served as Executive Editor of The Express Tribune from 2009 to 2014

The writer served as Executive Editor of The Express Tribune from 2009 to 2014

It had never been too easy for the PPP to launch or re-launch itself. Just go back to the back copies of leading newspapers of Pakistan and you will be shocked by the torrent of venom with which the party was welcomed at its launch in 1967. And every time Benazir Bhutto tried to re-launch the party, it was turned into a Sisyphean effort by the forces inimical to democracy. And Asif Ali Zardari sat there in the President House for five years, totally inactivated by judicial activism, with the Swiss cases hanging over his head like the sword of Damocles.

Both the father and the daughter can be faulted on many counts. But even the bitterest opponents of the two acknowledge without any reservations their invaluable contributions for democracy. ZA Bhutto gave this nation its first-ever near-unanimously passed democratic Constitution. Benazir Bhutto sacrificed her life for democracy.

Benazir is blamed for the infamous NRO but this ordinance was promulgated by a military dictator, essentially to ensure his own continuity and not to hand over his presidential powers to an elected prime minister. That the late Benazir successfully used the very same NRO to break open a window for the democratic process to resume is a classic example of what is known as turning an argument on its head. Also, had it not been for the NRO, the Charter of Democracy and the strategy of reconciliation, the PML-Q would have swept the 2008 polls after having returned Pervez Musharraf to presidency in uniform for another five years. No transfer of power would have occurred from an elected government to the next one after the 2013 polls — a long-aspired first in Pakistan’s history. And, of course, there would not have been any PTI/PAT dharnas or their mammoth public meetings. This is not to minimise the credit due to Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri for what the two have achieved so far in the political arena, but only to clarify some of the astute but misrepresented (by vested interests) moves of the PPP leadership for which it continues to be maligned by some old and some new aspirants to power.

And there is more to the PPP being wiped from Punjab than the alleged reasons of corruption and misgovernance. Punjab was known as the bastion of the PPP when ZAB was in power. But after ZAB’s ouster, forces hostile to the PPP never allowed the party to retake Punjab. The first time when a ‘security risk’-labelled BB came to power at the centre, Punjab went to a connected Nawaz Sharif. Next time it went to the PPP’s coalition partners, the Chatta faction of the PML, enjoying almost the same connections. And the third time again, it went back to Nawaz. That is the reason why during the last 35 years, a left-of-centre party’s bastion has completely turned into an ideologically barren entity, where a handful of conservative moneybags have been ruling the roost.

The circumstances under which Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has been launched by his party are totally different from those that ZAB and BB had faced. Democracy appears to be taking root in the country with the judiciary relatively more independent and the media relatively freer, with parts of the broadcast media acquiring enough influence to be able to set its own political agenda. The establishment, on the other hand, also seems to have learnt its lessons. A more level political field is available now in which Bilawal will be pitted against leaders as super-rich as Nawaz and as media-savvy a charismatic personality as Imran.

Bilawal’s first speech was impressive for its content, presentation and delivery. It had a liberal-left flavour. But he would need more than speaking skills to eliminate corruption and misgovernance from Sindh, which has been groaning under the PPP’s sleaze-laden and writ-less rule for the last six years. So, to begin with, his leadership qualities would be tested against his performance in Sindh compared with Imran’s in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Nawaz’s in Punjab. He can start with land reforms and taxing incomes from agriculture. One recalls here for the benefit of Bilawal, that the first-ever land reforms in this country were introduced by ZAB, but he was ousted before he could introduce the second phase, and that the 1973 Constitution empowers provinces to tax agriculture incomes.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 22nd, 2014.

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Reader Comments (12)

  • Mirza
    Oct 22, 2014 - 1:48AM

    Thanks for a balanced and factual Op Ed. I agree Bilawal is starting in better circumstances than ZAB or BB, both of them had to deal with army dictators. Even though Punjab has been systematically given to the rightwing parties by the establishment but there is no dearth of progressive voters in Punjab.
    The advantage Bilawal has over the other large parties is all the lotas are gone to PTI, PML-N and the Q-League has almost merged in PTI. With these lotas no party can bring about any change let alone a revolution. In addition PPP has developed great understanding with the secular and progressive ANP and hopefully Bilawal would keep it that way.
    First Bilawal has to visit PPP old faithful and bring them back. These lifelong members and leaders of PPP were ignored after the murder of BB and there is no reason why they should not be brought back? If Bilawal cannot prove that he is his own man they are doomed. He has to differentiate himself from the old lifetime politicians that have been the chiefs of their parties forever.
    In addition they have to open schools, colleges (already a medical college is announced), hospitals and increase education in Sindh. Bring solar power into village centers where kids can go and benefit. No kid should die of hunger while others are overeating. PPP does not need lot of resources for these. They can avail the help of overseas Pakistanis and other NGO. But they have to show they are making a difference. In a healthy democracy people would judge Sindh, Punjab, and KPK before they were run by three different parties and after they took over.

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  • Goose
    Oct 22, 2014 - 3:13AM

    Never been fan of PPP and never will be but if Bilawal can start with land reforms and taxing incomes from agriculture,he has my vote.A lot of of respect for ZAB

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  • Oct 22, 2014 - 9:15AM

    ZAB divided Pakistan. BB created terrorists by calling them freedom fighters. Z-Guy became 10%. Billy Boy is Rahul Gandhi of Pakistan. Both have doomed the dynasties.

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  • Muneer
    Oct 22, 2014 - 10:09AM

    Two major circumstantial differences between launching of ZAB / BB and Bilawal has not been mentioned. At the time of launching of PPP, ZAB did not have the baggage of misgovernance with him. Bilawal on the other hand carries the baggage of misgovernance of the party/ZAB/BB and Zardari.When he talks of Bhuttoism, people immediately compares the slogan or ideology with the past / present performance and draw conclusions.The advantage BB gained from hanging of ZAB is not available to Bilawal as the advantage of BB’s death has already been reaped by Zardari.Secondly,Bilawal has no achievement to his credit and no new idea to propound.As regards the torrent of venom,in 1967 it was led by the controlled media and discarded politicians.Presently the media is absolutely free and encouraged to support Bilawal.Almost all tried and discarded politicians also supports him.The time and the theme on which to re-launch PPP and launch Bilawal has not been correctly assessed.

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  • saad saeed
    Oct 22, 2014 - 2:56PM

    @Mirza:
    Surely Manzoor Watto doesn’t fall in your definition of “Lota”?

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  • salman
    Oct 22, 2014 - 5:08PM

    @Mirza:
    As an overseas Pakistani, I’m not going to give a penny to any fund raising associated with Zardari and his ilk. And I don’t know many who would…

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  • kiran
    Oct 22, 2014 - 5:24PM

    @Mirza:
    wait arnt you quoting half the things from ik’s and qadris speeches?

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  • Uza Syed
    Oct 22, 2014 - 6:52PM

    Re-launching?! They never got off our backs, like others of their creed they hold us the poor and the down trodden in their tight tyrannical clutch and we have to break their grips to regain our freedom. They all are no good, they all must go.

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  • Ahmad Siddiqui
    Oct 22, 2014 - 7:48PM

    Inexperienced Bilawal did not touch Corruption galore in Sind specially and at the Federal level(during the past 5 years).Presently Sind is the worst province in Pakistan re corruption and lack of governance.Sind is also run through remote control by the Family.
    PPP had the golden opportunity during the last 5 years rule,but waisted through corruption,nepotism and favoritism.

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  • Ahmad Siddiqui
    Oct 22, 2014 - 7:50PM

    No mention of corruption galore by genius Bilawal.Apparently Sind is the champion in this regard.He has to review the worst 5 years of PPP during 2008-2013.

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  • Gp65
    Oct 22, 2014 - 9:19PM

    @Mirza:
    What do you think of Bilawal’s repeated anti-India rants? Though your news reports as Modi spewing venom on Pakistan, you will be hard pressed to find any recent speeches where he has actually done so. We van find any mumber of Bilawal speeches which sow aggressive intent.

    What do you think of the fact that thousands of Hindus are fleeing Sind each year and PPP is not prviding any protection to them?

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  • shahid
    Oct 23, 2014 - 5:38AM

    @Muneer:
    ZAB was a minister in the government of Ayub Khan for seven years and part and parcel of very important decision that was taken during those seven years by Ayub. That includes the decision to launch the war in Kashmir in 1965. He then put the responsibility for it on to Ayub and started a campaign against Ayub for deceiving the nation. His promises to tell the nation about the secrets of Tashkand declaration. He was an alternate candidate for Ayub Khan from Convention Muslim against Fatimah Jinnah and did every thing possible to defeat her. And that includes the blood bath in Karachi against the Urdu speaking communities which had opposed Ayub Khan. And this is just a small sample of the great leader’s services to Pakistan.

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