Zardari keeps alive PPP legacy of embracing political opponents
LAHORE: As the four-decade old enmity between the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and the Chaudhrys of Gujrat is seemingly on the verge of getting transformed into a state of infatuation, if not love, the Sharif brothers now find themselves in a quandary.
Just days after they were taken aback by Imran Khan’s sudden truce with Altaf Hussain and the open PML-Q support for a recent MQM public meeting in Lahore, the Sharifs are now watching President Zardari embrace the Chaudhrys.
At a juncture when they were otherwise hoping Pervaiz Elahi and son Moonis to be fixed in the NICL and Bank of Punjab scams by the federal government, the ‘unholy alliance’ between the Chaudhrys and Zardari’s PPP is surely nothing less than a dilemma for the men running the PML-N.
The foundation of this ‘crush’ between the PPP and the PML-Q was actually laid on March 18, 2009 in Islamabad, when Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and Pervaiz Elahi had called on President Asif Zardari to discuss the formation of government in Punjab and to devise a power-sharing formula between the two political parties.
This meeting was held just 23 days after a two-month Governor’s rule was imposed in Punjab on February 25, 2009 by President Asif Zardari, on the advice from Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani and the ruling PML-N was sent packing temporarily.
The antagonism between the Bhutto family and the Chaudhrys had started in the 1970s, after Chaudhary Zahoor Elahi was jailed in a fabricated buffalo theft case at the behest of the PPP founder and the then Premier, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.
A special tribunal had also sentenced the elder Chaudhary to an imprisonment of five years during Bhutto’s time and he was also among the nine opposition parliamentary leaders, who were thrown out of the Parliament House then. It was because of this hatred that Chaudhry Zahoor Elahi had reportedly taken, as souvenir, the pen used by General Ziaul Haq for signing the execution orders of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.
Chaudhary Zahoor Elahi, a police constable of 1930s and a businessman-cum-politician of the late 1950s, had entered the political arena with a bang by getting elected as chairman of the Gujrat district board in 1958 and then challenging General Ayub Khan’s Elected Bodies Disqualification Order (EBDO), a crime for which he was sentenced to six months imprisonment by Ayub’s martial law regime. Zahoor Elahi was assassinated on September 25, 1981 in Lahore and Murtaza Bhutto had publicly accepted the responsibility for the assassination in his interview with the BBC.
As Zahoor Elahi’s heirs believed that the late Mir Murtaza Bhutto’s Al-Zulfikar was behind the murder, the rivalry between the Chaudhrys and the Bhuttos grew with every passing day.
In 1988, Bhutto’s daughter Benazir came to power and barred all banks from sanctioning working capital to the businesses owned by the Chaudhrys, though the latter did manage to seek relief from the courts.
During Benazir’s second tenure (1993-96), several cases were registered against Chaudhry Shujat Hussain and Chaudhry Parvez Elahi and the duo was sent to the Adiyla Jail in Rawalpindi for several months.
The PPP has a history of cuddling its political adversaries and rivals. For example, long before she had signed the famous Charter of Democracy with Nawaz Sharif in London, Benazir Bhutto had wished Sahibzada Yaqub Khan to be her foreign minister in 1988, although he was appointed by General Zia.
And then she had voted for Ghulam Ishaq Khan to be the country’s president, perhaps ignoring the fact that he too was a known anti-Bhutto element. The apprehensions of PPP supporters proved absolutely correct when President Ishaq Khan went on to dismiss Benazir’s elected government in 1990.
Even the sitting premier and a key PPP office-bearer, Yusuf Raza Gilani was in General Zia’s camp at the time Bhutto was hanged; and so was Babar Awan, who was very recently accused by Zia’s elder son Ijaz-ul-Haq of distributing sweets at Bhutto’s hanging in April 1979.
The recently deposed foreign minister, Shah Mahmood Qureshi’s family was also in anti-Bhutto camp at the time of Bhutto’s execution. Shah Mahmood’s father, late Makhdoom Sajjad Hussain Qureshi, was Punjab’s Governor (December 1985 to December 1988) during the reign of General Zia.
Last, but not the least, Speaker Dr. Fehmida Mirza’s father, Qazi Abdul Majeed Abid, had held a few important portfolios during Zia-ul-Haq’s rule.
These are just a few more examples where PPP leadersip has displayed ‘exemplary generosity’ and ‘magnanimity’ in mending fences with their rivals, whenever it suited it.