By Saeed Qureshi
The Pakistan People’s Party founded by the firebrand, charismatic and revolutionary leader Zulfikar Ali Bhutto has been buried under a heap of scandals and notoriety. Apparently, It is destined to be consigned to the dustbin of history and only time would tell how and when it regains it lost glory and fame of yester-years.
The History of the “Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire” written by illustrious English historian Edward Gibbon can, also to a narrow scale, be applied to the rise and fall of the PPP. A political party that admiringly came to be known as the party of the downtrodden sections, oppressed masses and marginalized people of Pakistan has come to such an appalling situation that it cannot hold it election meetings or open its offices.
Most of its offices are closed in Karachi and elsewhere as these are increasingly coming under attacks from Taliban and other disgruntled religious bands. Alas this one time most coveted party has come to such an unenviable pass.
The decline of the party began when in the wake of the controversial elections of March 1977; Mr. Bhutto surrendered to the exploitative classes and relegated the party’s revolutionary charter to the back burners. Earlier he also abandoned the poor and dispossessed sections and embraced the feudal, the petty bourgeoisie, the Sardars, the cutthroat industrialist, the mercantile monarchs and all those sections against whom the party had come into being.
He stooped and capitulated before the religious oppressive groups and zealots to save his power. He revived the religious fiat prevalent during the medieval times in the Islamic dynasties. In order to quell the uprising from the mosques triggered by the emotional Muslims and to pacify the religious demagogues and clerics, he declared Friday as the weekly holiday, banned liquor and closed the liquor shops, declared the Ahmadis as non Muslims, declared horse race as unlawful and took a host of similar retrogressive measures.
That was a shameless betrayal of his party’s milestone mission that stood for liberty, openness, human rights, democracy and welfare of the common people of Pakistan. He changed the trajectory of his people’s revolution and he left halfway the grandiose mission of changing the destiny of Pakistan and its people.
What went wrong with the party in the subsequent times? Let us examine it. Imagine a party in power could not trace or capture for five years, the assassins of its chairperson Mohtrama Benazir Bhutto. It had all the power and the resources to reach and bring the ruthless culprits to justice.
All that Asif Ali Zardari as the co-chairman of the PPP, the president of Pakistan and the husband of Benazir, was to pronounce that he was aware of the murderers of BB, but couldn’t disclose their identities. What a shame and what cowardice!
One wonders a president of the country is so afraid that he lacks the courage to reveal the names of the assassins of an iconic political figure who was also his spouse. The Bhutto family fans have been disillusioned over the callous and deliberate circumvention of this murder that should be counted as one of the greatest tragedies that struck Pakistan.
While the other political parties and politicians have been crying hoarse to catch the assassins of BB, the PPP has been evasive and seemed devoid of any interest, urgency or passion on this issue of the Himalayan import.
Now another issue that is shrouded in mystery and is outright murky and dubious is the will of the slain leader. Why on earth no one ponders for a moment that her will is an extremely vital document and which in fact belongs to the nation. It is long draft (said to be 35 pages) and narrates several national and family issues.
About Mr. Zardari she wrote, “I would like my husband Asif Ali Zardari to lead you in this interim period until he and you decide what the best is.” What was that interim period? Did she know that she will die and there will be an interim period and how long it should be? Whom she was addressing as ‘you’?
This lengthy document couldn’t be only about the appointment of Mr. Zardari as his heir or successor as party chairman. Now understandably, as per Benazir’s will, it is only her widowed spouse Mr. Zardari who inherits all the grandeur, power and prestige as the president of a leading political Party. But even if she appointed Mr. Zardari for an interim period as the chief of the party; the rest of the will still needs to be revealed.
The paramount question that intrigues the mind is that only one page of the hand written will has been disclosed. Interestingly that page shows only the appointment of Zardari to take up the reins of the party. Normally as the practice is, all wills are opened by the lawyers in front of all the close family members. But it is said that except Asif Ali Zardari no one else not even the children of the deceased Benazir Bhutto have the full text of will.
I would not believe that Benazir was so novice and naive as to appoint an individual as the party’s chairman and not advise or direct the central executive committee to choose through vote, the next chairman of the party. The PPP is not a dynastic party and even if it’s because of Bhutto family charisma, still, the appointment of any person from the family should have been made through a democratic system.
And now let us turn our attention to the five years rule of the PPP. Perhaps the biggest achievement of Mr. Zardari as Pakistan’s president was to construct a freakish coalition with the help of smaller parties on any conditions that these parties laid down. In this scandalous give and take and odious format of scratching each other’s back, the grave national issues from deficient electricity to checking rampant corruption and mushrooming lawlessness were conveniently set aside.
Rather the party echelons themselves broke the record of corruption by spawning and patronizing unbridled culture of loot of national wealth. The PPP’s ministers down to the lowest party cadres were obsessed with one base goal and that was to make money through every conceivable foul mean.
The rental power units are one of those jumbo scandals. These white elephants and totally useless dysfunctional power units were rented by robbing the national exchequer of billions of rupees. The nation building institutions such as PIA, the Steel, Mills, the Railways and many others were debilitated ruthlessly and we all know why?
The five years’ reign of PPP along with it s coalition partners was a long nightmare that deprived the people of even modest living, they were having in previous regimes. The people are now poorer despite the facade of spending 72 billion rupees via Benazir Income support program every year on alleviation of poverty. I shall not repeat its running battle with judiciary and flouting it’s several orders.
The country is in the grip of a paradigm of lawlessness that was not seen before ever in Pakistan. While the people in power from top to an office clerk were riveted on filling their personal pockets, the country and the nation suffered from a spell of degeneration and administrative breakdown and it would take years for the recovery and rehabilitation.
So the unabashed and audacious manner the PPP leadership has destroyed the fabric of the Pakistani society, fragmented it and exhibited callous indifference towards its reconstruction is blowing back on its face. Predictably, most of its erstwhile staunchest voters may not vote for this party in May 11 elections. The accusing fingers for an historic failure to serve the nations are being pointed at Mr. Zardari and his close cohorts.
The party may not stage a comeback in the power corridors, and would keep facing Taliban and other religious outfits. But more ominous is the specter that PPP leaders might be arraigned in the courts for a surfeit of allegations. They might also have to face public backlash and outrage in the coming months and years.
The myth of “Roti, Kapra and Makan” cannot be drummed up by the party again as people won’t be bitten twice and even thrice by the same coterie of the crooks. The PPP face has been tarnished so much by its inept and corrupt leaders that it cannot be refurbished by the best of political perfumes and cosmetics.