Wednesday, November 30, 2016
As Pakistan People’s Party enters 50th year of its establishment, it would require great deal of in-depth study, debate and discussion to evaluate its impact on Pakistan’s post Independence history, its politics and socio-economic development, its achievements and what future holds for it.
I hope its anniversary celebrations in Lahore – where it was found by Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in 1967 – would result in reaching concrete evaluation and stock taking so that its young Chairman, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, could have proper documentation to revisit PPP’s past to charter his course for the future.
Everything has to be considered in the light of the great legacy of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and his infinite contribution to Pakistan’s political development by the establishment of perhaps the most outstanding political party in post 1935 history of Indo-Pakistan sub-continent.
My above comment would not be palatable for many who continue to live with a caveman mentality despite being in the 21st century. It would also cause wrinkles on the foreheads of those who have been brought up within the moorings of a regimented mindset in which Pakistan’s history has been totally distorted and murdered, its ideologically secular raison d’etre hijacked and Quaid-e-Azam’s vision of a liberal, progressive social welfare state to guarantee greatest good of the largest number replaced by a garrison state deriving its power not from the people but from the barrel of the gun, retrogressive religious forces and foreign sponsors.
My assertion that the creation of PPP was ZAB’s most outstanding contribution is neither a sweeping statement nor an exaggeration. If one looks at Indo-Pakistan sub-continent’s history, never ever before it any political party suffered as much as it did at the hands of ruthless dictators. Its leaders, its workers and supporters in hundreds and thousands, generation after generation, had to bear untold persecution, prosecution, hangings, whipping, long jail sentences to sustain its undiluted ideological commitment to secular democracy, empowerment of the people towards creating an egalitarian order to guarantee equal rights to all – irrespective of caste, creed, colour or gender.
It would not be possible for me to catalogue in this short anniversary article all of the PPP’s achievements and the seminal changes Bhutto Sahib brought in Pakistan’s archaic politics of status quo. The objective here is simply to remind all those who have gathered in Lahore – old and new – to Bhutto Sahib’s unparalleled ideological contribution of far reaching consequences that so far no dictator has been able to erase. The slogan singed in the blood of his selfless and shirtless supporters and his beloved daughter Benazir Bhutto – “Bhutto Zinda Hai” has come to be immortal.
Bhutto Sahib was no ordinary mortal. His vision was destined to remain as harbinger of change – a vision that meant so many different things to so many with divergent bearings and vocations. It was fruitious then and it continues to hold on to its efficacy even to this day – perhaps shall continue forever and ever. And this was amply manifested in the diversity of support he received – from all and sundry – from the poor, landless, shelter less, shirtless, shoeless masses and the feudal and the moneyed, intellectuals and all those who wanted to be bulwark in defence of Quaid’s secular and egalitarian Pakistan.
Bhutto Sahib harnessed in his politics unity in diversity with the sole objective of the common weal of the people. To him politics, democracy, empowerment of the masses was a means not an end. I became his ardent fan when I was a student, his articulation of Pakistan in various international forums and then at the United Nations in 1965 made us his devoted followers. Often, I wondered why he joined the military dictator that Ayub Khan was when his bearing was good enough to take him far through pastures of national politics on his own.
When I got to know him closely I did raise the question that disturbed me most. His response was: when one wants to achieve higher objectives, one has to know the subject – both its academics and practical sides. He was highly educated, yet he had to learn practical politics and in the vicious environment that Pakistan had been rendered into by the machinations of the power troika comprising of generals, bureaucrats and judges in cahoots with the feudal vested interest and the clerics. To plan to destroy it – one had to be inside the vicious system. And that is what he leant from the inside as a minister in Ayub’s government.
If one looks at the assortment of PPP’s following then and now- it manifests Bhutto Sahib’s left leanings. He was not a communist but a social democrat. This was the reason that he became endeared to the poor and his left orientation caught the imagination of young people like us who saw in him a beacon of light to take nation out of the dark tunnel. Indeed, PPP under Bilawal Bhutto Zardari – shall have to revive left-of-the centre image that was an overall Bhutto Sahib’s legacy.
Besides PPP, Bhutto Sahib’s other monumental contribution is the Constitution of 1973. It is the only force keeping the federation together. One must give credit to former President Asif Zardari for further binding the federal grip by the 18th amendment that actually empowered the provinces with genuine autonomy promised to them by both Bhutto Sahib and his dearest daughter-Benazir Bhutto.
No doubt PPP and its leadership are faced with onerous challenges. It must be realised that despite every oppression in the book of torture inflicted on it, it is the blood of the Bhuttos and their selfless supporters that has enabled it to withstand all the storms with unmatchable resilience. However, time has come to evolve a strategy to counter powers that be that have been in a continuous conspiracy trying to decimating PPP especially in Punjab.
PPP leaders must remember that they have no reason to be apologetic about anything. Whenever PPP has been in power –despite being hampered and targeted by the powers that be– it has done something monumental for the country. Chairman Bilawal Bhutto is right when he says that it was President Zardari who initiated the China Pakistan Economic Corridor and finalised the blue print for One Belt One Road during his nine visits to Beijing. He defied Iran’s adversary and signed the gas pipe line deal when it was straitjacketed by sanctions. He sought normalisation of relations with Putin’s Russia. And could there be bigger achievement than the fact that he ensured transfer of power through vote after first time completion of tenure of any elected government?
Since acknowledgement of the achievements of PPP and good deeds of Bhuttos is something that does not exist in the dictionary of political adversaries or powers that be, PPP must reiterate the fact that Pakistan today is sixth nuclear power and first Muslim country to have the atomic bomb because of Bhutto Sahib.
Not only that, his daughter’s contribution is equally immense in making Pakistan’s defence impregnable. It was Benazir Bhutto who staked her life for providing Pakistan sophisticated missile technology. Today we gloat happily because of her that we have the capability to carry variety of missiles to their targets.
Last but not the least—without expecting any acknowledgement from its sole beneficiary—PPP’s determined role not to allow extra-constitutional derailment of democracy when it has been under constant threat of the invisible umpire to raise his finger—shall always be written in letters of gold.