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November 19, 2017

PPP versus PML-N — I


November 19, 2017

In his article ‘Prisoner’s Dilemma’ Husain H Zaidi (News, Nov 11) has taken a mighty swipe at PPP’s game of real politik. In a tainted observation PPP has been accused of war of words with PM-N and that by not siding with it in its ‘make-or-break relationship, PPP is said to have stabbed it in the back. I feel PPP is right in not bailing out Nawaz after his disqualification by the Supreme Court on charges of corruption. It has been betrayed often and enough of being dubbed as friendly opposition. Mian Nawaz Sharif’s diatribe against judiciary is not for saving democracy but himself.
PPP’s decision to support MNS when he was under attack of PTI’s dharnas and umpire’s finger, was not to rescue self-serving ruling party but to save edifice of democracy it had sustained for five years against Establishment’s machinations and PML-N’s intrigues to unseat it. Later, as the writer puts it, PPP leadership, indeed, realised that “once off the hook, a ‘thankless’ Nawaz Sharif” did not pay heed to its “genuine concerns” and “turned his back”.
It is wrong to allege PPP of changing its stance when sweet became sour for MNS. PPP’s Asif Zardari, by helping him in Parliament in touch and go period made it clear to him that his strength was in the Parliament and not in his cabinet of cronies. And when the PanamaLeaks exposed his mega corruption, PPP’s advice was to present his case before the house and disclose sources of income allegedly beyond means.
He did not care for wisdom but opted for buffoonery. He preferred to give space to other institutions including judiciary and passed the initiative. PPP did not switch gears to settle scores with him. From the beginning of his tenure as third time PM, PPP kept pressing MNS, please don’t undermine the Parliament, show respect to it by attending it regularly like PPP Prime Ministers and make his ministers take it seriously too instead of them participating in it as clowns on the

side lines of a circus.
PPP had nothing to do with his disqualification, it were lies and more lies. PPP hailed the decision keeping its tradition of respect for the judiciary, while the judges must have been haunted by the traumatising memory of PML-N organised attack on SC by its goons including ministers in 1997. PPP took ruling party’s “conspiracy theory” as merely flimsy defence of its misdeeds.
His unceremonious exit was not an event of singular significance. The resignation of Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani was. Gilani was punished for contempt by the Nawaz-backed chief justice for defending the Head of the State. He’s was a historic precedence in showing respect to the Supreme Court—however questionable. When TV channels replayed Nawaz‘s old clips now shouting: “Prime Minister Gilani, Supreme Court has convicted you, step down, go home. ” I am reminded of divine retribution.
Equally ironic is TV clip doing the rounds showing Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif threatening ex- president Zardari to drag him by his hair in the streets of Punjab while now the Sharif clan wants his support. Despite being a convict MNS continues to be treated as de fecto PM, he travels freely in security cavalcades in the country and goes abroad whenever he wants while the two PPP’s ex-prime ministers, not convicted yet, are on ECL not free to travel abroad.
PPP has been an anti-establishment party from the day of its inception. Its track record speaks for itself. Its unflinching commitment to democracy is manifested in its long catalogue of sufferings—its leadership’s frequent incarcerations, untold sacrifices by its workers and supporters who bravely bared their backs to be whipped and walk to the gallows head high during General Zia’s reign of terror.
In his snide comments on Bhutto Sahib, the author takes his inspiration from the text book of character assassination of Bhuttos by psywar experts. Young Zulfikar Ali Bhutto joined Ayub government when Jinah Sahib’s sister ---Madre Millat Mohtarma Fatima Jinnah had welcomed his take over. He separated from Ayub when he had seen his machinations against democracy and national interests. Rigging in the Presidential elections opened his eyes and he opposed Ayub. He formed PPP to uproot forces of status quo and as harbinger of change.
From his experience as Ayub’s minister he had an inkling of intrigues inside. He had learnt about the conversation between Ayub and Law Minister Justice Muneer suggesting East Pakistan’s secession (See “Jinnah To Zia” banned by Zia). ZAB was aware that Ayub had assigned Information Secretary Altaf Gauhar to draft Mujib’s Six Points. It was Gauhar’s Ministry of Information that hosted Mujib’s trip to West Pakistan to announce Six Points. Gauhar also instructed newspapers not to critize him. And when Bhutto challanged Mujib to publicly debate Six Points in Paltan Maidan Ayub did not allow him to travel to East Pakistan. ZAB was no ordinary individual. He had a sharp eye and sharper brain and he could foresee the future.
In “Prisoner’s dilemma’ it is ignored it was Gen Yahya and not Bhutto who had taken over power from Ayub and it was Yahya’s commitment to hand over power to the majority party. It was incumbent upon him-if he wished- and not Bhutto to hand power over to Awami League-irrespective of PPP and what other parties said. As leader of one of the many West Pakistani parties, ZAB could not stop Yahya in transfer of power.
There is no mystery about Bhutto’s role in the 1971. Popular vote had established him as the leader of Pakistan’s second largest province, bastion of its military and bureaucratic power. Punjab had a vested interest larger than the state and wished it to be protected as such Bhutto was given a solid mandate. As a shrewd politician it was imperative upon ZAB to ensure that no intrigue derails the federation as already planned in Ayub’s close quarters i.e. break-up of Pakistan. Bhutto just wanted to negotiate with Mujib a better deal in a constitutional arrangement—to alley fears in West Pakistan. Not Bhutto, only Yahya could have saved the country by surrendering to the will of the majority. But he had ambitions to remain President for ever.
Bhutto’s ascendancy to power after surrender was a necessity for the country. It had lost 12,000 kilometers of land on the western front; 93,000 of its personnel were in Indian prisoner camps. Pakistan needed a leader to secure its future from further disintegration and to negotiate with India release of PoWs and withdrawal from its territory. It had nothing to do with any itch. It was Bhutto’s statesmanship that recovered Pakistan’s battle-lost land on the negotiating table. Simla was his master stroke of diplomacy that he negotiated an agreement not as a leader of a vanquished nation but on equal terms, with respect and honour.
It was realised by all that leader of Bhutto’s calibre could revive and rejuvenate the soldiers and get lost territory and troops back from Indians. His killer General Ziaul Haq openly accepted in 1976 in Quetta Staff College that ZAB did so much for the Pakistan army that was not even done in totality of the first quarter of the century. He equipped Pakistan’s armed forces with new and latest equipment plus made its invincible with the nuclear glow. Once the army was back in its full stride, same Gen Zia who used to eat out of his hand, staged a coup against him and hanged him to please his American masters who had promised to make him a ‘horrible example’ for his defiance in nuclear field. (To be continued)
Author is the former High Commissioner of Pakistan to UK and a veteran journalist.

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