Monday, January 23, 2017

Pakistan - Bilawal Bhutto's mass contact

By Akram Shaheedi

PPP’s rally from Lahore to Faisalabad led by Chairman Bilawal Bhutto last week was characteristically a Jialas’s impressive march where traditional energy and enthusiasm was beaming out with full glory giving plausible cause of concern to the political opponents. The Takht-i-Lahore was crumbling with the shock waves of slogans of the fully charged participants. Indeed, the entire route of the rally was presenting the true glimpses of the rallies led by Shaheed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and Shaheed Benazir Bhutto during their times. The PPP workers and leaders were looking amazingly upbeat because their confidence was holding out promising political future. Their resolve to regain its bastion was very reassuring. The party leadership in general and the chairman in particular were visibly delighted to see the response of the people that would surely prove as a harbinger of staging comeback in the province of Punjab sooner than later.
Makdoom Ahmed Mahmood, Raja Pervez Ashraf, Qamar Zaman Kaira, Nadeem Afzal Chan, Senator Aitzaz Ehsan, Mian Manzoor Ahmed Wattoo, Asef Khan, Mushtaq Awan, Abdul Qadir Shaheen, Naveed Chaudhry, Raja Amir were prominent among those who accompanied the chairman in the rally. Former Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani’s absence was conspicuous as he was pre-occupied in Multan to bring the important political personalities of the city to the party.
The PPP workers were continuously chanting slogans in the rally at the top of their voice ‘go Nawaz go’ and ‘down with the Takhat-i-Lahore’-- implying enough was enough and the nation could not tolerate them anymore.
The abject failures of this government in all walks of national life were unforgiving explicitly giving the message that people had run out of their patience and wanted to get rid of them as early as possible because good governance was too serious business that could not be carried out by the traders. Their temptation to thrive on the miseries of the poorest of the poor was pitiably irresistible. They had disappointed the people earlier, and they were bound to inflict the same cycle of miseries on the people this time as well because their appetite to amass wealth had no limits. Panama Papers was just the tip of the iceberg.
The successful march by the PPP also suggested that the new leadership in Punjab, Qamar Zaman Kaira, Nadeem Afzal Chen and Mustafa Khokhar and others had proved their mettle of leadership by infusing the enthusiasm among the workers in such a short span of time who were earlier disoriented and frustrated and largely felt alienated.
They were looking up to the high command for appointing comparatively amenable and well-meaning leadership in the province with the tinge of rebuilding and rebranding from roots to branches. The faces of the incumbent hierarchy of the party at Punjab level quite clearly pointed to the acknowledgment of the paradigm. The new leadership was certainly well poised to revive the party in the province, once a heartland of the party. The party would stage a comeback in the province although it was daunting task in the wake of well-entrenched PML (N) and the new factor of PTI. But, under the leadership of Chairman Bilawal Bhutto, the liberal and democratic forces in the province including the PPP workers would readily come around to push back successfully the retrogressive and status-quo forces.
The typical political pundits, though, had been projecting the dismal prospects of the revival of the PPP because, according to them, a lot of water had flown under the bridge and it was very difficult for the chairman to make inroads in the stronghold of PML-N that had been in the saddle in the province for the last more than two decades. It may be recalled that the political pundits used to make similar forecasts on the political fate of the election campaigns of two Great Bhuttos who amazingly routed the political stalwarts because they communicated directly to the people and convinced them of their genuine leadership engrossed for their empowerment. Similarly, Chairman Bilawal Bhutto’s political strategy to embark on the mass contact movement was the modus operandi to strive for the same results. He was a charismatic young leader who had fallen heir to the legacies of Great Bhuttos. He was determined to uphold the cherished legacies.
One important dimension of the current political struggle of the PPP for the consumption of all and sundry was its total commitment in electoral politics. It had given much needed solace to the people who were not at all inclined to accept any other model than the democratic dispensation. Therefore, PPP’s current mass contact campaign did not arouse the acute anxiety among the people regarding the derailment of democracy mainly because of the impeccable credentials of the PPP for the restoration and strengthening of it. This stark difference between the sit-in, lockdown politics and the PPP people’s politics was going to be a powerful factor that might attract the people in large number in favor of the party. PPP had never come to power without the power of vote whereas the history of other political parties was smeared of entering the corridors of power, at times, through the political crutches of the unauthorized and unqualified quarters. PPP being an anti-establishment party had faced its wrath many times in the past in the form of denying it electoral victory. Supreme Court judgment in Asghar Khan’s case unfolded the conspiracies hatched and executed against PPP.
Salute to the unwavering commitment of the PPP to democracy. It had and would not put the political system in danger in its political struggle for party politics. Former Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani’s assertion in the past comprehensively defined the level of commitment when he said, ‘PPP will not compromise on democracy regardless of the fact as who is the beneficiary’. It would continue its political campaign within the ambit of the democratic ethos while ensuring the longevity of the political system at the same time. For PPP, democracy was non-negotiable that could not be sacrificed at the altar of any other consideration no matter how compelling that might be.
There was no doubt that the dawn of democracy and its continuity in the country today largely owed to the PPP struggle in the face of successive ferocious dictatorships like of general Ziaul Haq and general Musharraf. Even after those tempestuous eras the political system was subject to subtle dangers unleashed through the planted saviors.
Had the PPP joined the forces of ‘sit-in politics or lock down’ during 2013-14 and after, democracy would have been the relic of the past. PPP could not afford of seeing the ugly sight of derailment of democracy because that would have amounted to betrayal to the legacies of its founding father. PPP stemmed the tide of anti-democratic forces with courage and also helped in big way the pro-democratic forces to hold their ground.
At present, the PPP was relatively out of the apprehension of the rocking of the ship of democracy as anti-democratic forces had been cut to size by the sharp rise of pro-democracy environment all around. Therefore, PPP felt no hesitation in deciding to take on the government as a formidable opposition party to expose its anti-people policies. There was no secret the government had been following the policies to benefit the rich at the expense of the poor making rich the richer and the poor destitute. The curse of unemployment had permeated to an appalling proportion among the youth who constituted major chunk of country’s population. They were running from pole to post in search of even menial jobs but to no avail because the job market had shrunk to the limits due to the pro-elite policies of this government.
The country’s exports were on the decline widening the gap of balance of payments. Farmers’ community was up in arms against the government because agriculture of the country was presenting the dismal picture on which the livelihood of two thirds majority of the people depended. The agony of load shedding of gas and electricity was persisting contrary to their tall electoral promises to control it within six months. The government had completed more than three and half years but the mitigating of the miseries of the people remained a forlorn hope.
The government’s macroeconomic policies had also pushed the economy of the country into debt trap and the touting of the finance minister of making turn around in the economy sounds hoax. The mountain of debts was in total contravention of the fiscal responsibility and Debt Limitation Act. He was on the path of mortgaging the future of the future generations. They must be stopped by resisting their policies in all their forms and manifestations because inaction and inattention now would bring unmitigated disaster for the people and the economy. The chairman had decided to expose the government and its policies to the bones. PPP would not allow the government to inflict the devastation. It would rather illuminate the path to be followed by the nation leading to the destination reflective of their aspirations.

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