Tuesday, December 31, 2019
Khalid Mahmood Rasool
The journey of democracy in Pakistan has never been smooth. Turmoil and tremors have been the hallmark of Pakistani politics causing ripples of uncertainty, fear of political extinction and a continued fight for an uninterrupted democratic process. Few political parties could hold substantial ground to stay relevant in all seasons of politics like Peoples Party of Pakistan (PPP) which proved probably the most resilient one in the country’s political arena. As PPP is undergoing a transition to pass the reigns of its leadership to 3rd generation while struggling to redefine its relevance to national politics, the country’s own power dynamics are passing through a paradigm shift as well.
It was December 27th in the year 2007 that Benazir Bhutto fell victim to the brutal terror attack at Liaqat Bagh, Rawalpindi. After eight years in exile, raising three children in hard and harsh exiled life and fighting for her political comeback, Benazir Bhutto finally managed to return to Pakistan to lead her party in the forthcoming election. Her charisma rekindled her party’s hopes to turn the tides with a more matured and energetic persona of iconic Benazir Bhutto. But, sadly nature had different plans for her.
The ghost of Liaqat Bagh struck again; she fell to the same fate as of Liaqat Ali Khan. Benazir Bhutto met with the same fate; lost her life but the mystery of her assassination still shrouds till to date. With the demise of Benazir Bhutto ended the exclusive bloodline legacy of Bhutto family. Pakistan People’s Party was up for a new transition; a paradigm shift occurred in leadership and its outfit.
Zulifqar Ali Bhutto has left behind a legacy that has inspired his followers until today. He happened to be one of the most brilliant politicians of our time. He was equally most admired by many and most contentious for the rest of the people. His legacy of raising the common man issues as main political agenda; Roti, Kapra Aur Makan connected with millions of peasants and laborers who were hardly heard in electoral politics. Despite being one of the most divisive politicians and his tragic departure from the scene through judicial but contentious verdict, his pro-poor legacy has survived.
Benazir Bhutto emerged as political successor of her father. Repressive regime of Zia and all out efforts to marginalize the party had a severe toll on party’s ranks and cadres. She along with Nusrat Bhutto, her mother, withstood those harsh days. She picked up the piece of the party on her return to the country in 1986. She managed two stints as prime Minister but had all along to fight with so many abrasive and restraining forces leading to her dismissal twice. Her leadership style aside, the public goods delivery of her both tenures were marred by allegations of financial mismanagement and corruption. But all said done, she stood out as an outstanding successor of her father and had many admirers around the world for being first woman Prime Minister in Muslim world, well-educated and enlightened leader in a male dominated society and polity.
After her assassination, her children adopted the family name as Zardari Bhutto; announced by Asif Ali Zardari soon after the taking the reins of the party. The last and complete tenure of PPP in power is fresh in most the memories. The tenure was tainted by poor governance and allegations of corruption to that extent that party succumbed to losses in all provinces except in Sindh.
PPP is now in ruling Sindh uninterrupted since over 12 years. Still its politics draws more strength from its martyrs and less from its governance. Lately, removal of hundreds of thousands of recipients from Benazir Income Support fund for illegally extracting the benefits speaks volumes about a style of politics which largely is based on cronyism and buying loyalties at cost state coffers. Fake accounts saga has also exposed the web of cronies and plundering public sources.
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari in now the new face the party; addressing a death anniversary rally at the same place where her mother lost her life twelve years ago. Since then, the world has changed a lot in Pakistan and around the world too . Political dynasties in South Asia have been fighting hard to reclaim lost glories of the past but many have ended in the wilderness of obscurity. Bilawal Bhutto Zardari is at a historic juncture of family dynasty; which way he wants to move on would define his place in country’s politics. He would follow the tradition of clinging to sympathies attached with martyrs or carve out world of his own capable to deliver in a complex and changed world; the time would decide.