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Opinion

Mushtaq Rajpar
December 7, 2017

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What is the future of the PPP?

What is the future of the PPP?

The debate on the history and future of the PPP on its 50thanniversary offers the party a real chance to rethink what went wrong with it as it keeps losing ground to newer forces.
There is no denying the sacrifices the party’s leadership and workers have made in the fight for constitutional rule in the country. The PPP has a legacy of a heroic and brave struggle and the travails its leadership and workers have gone through is tremendous. Judicial murder, bomb blasts, gun attacks, long jail terms, solitary confinements – is there any form of punishment that has not been unleashed against them?
The PPP was the best thing to happen in Pakistan during Ayub Khan’s era; it represented change and hope. These days, though, it is frustrating to see how that hope has vanished or is in the process of completely evaporating.
The party has undergone changes of leadership, role and character. The party has been victimised for its democratic role and mass mobilisation, for having always wanted to ensure civilian democratic rule. The PPP has been forced to mourn the deaths of workers and leaders for decades. This has continued since it seems it suits the status quo and its puppets to keep the PPP in a state of mourning. When Shaheed Benazir Bhutto was leaving the country to go in exile, she had expressed her helplessness in the fight against what she termed the ‘state apparatus’ that, in her view, was far more powerful and resourceful than the country’s political parties.
Unlike India, which truly became free in 1947, Pakistani society has been at war within to define its direction and the kind of polity it wants. In the process of this struggle we have produced many traitors. This conflictual nature of politics and counter-politics has defined Pakistan.
Indeed the PPP’s tragic story is the story of this country. There have been only two Pakistans, one of the PPP and the other historically anti-PPP. Realistically speaking, post-1970 Pakistan is a creation of the PPP, from its first democratic federal constitution to a truly representative government. This country could have been a far better place had Gen Zia’s military takeover not happened. Zia’s dictatorship created distortions on so many fronts that we are still struggling to undo him and his legacy.
The PPP could not become a party of Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa people because it introduced a constitution in 1973 which legalised Punjab’s permanent political domination over rest of Pakistan. The Senate was not given fiscal power, since finance bills could be passed without the Senate’s approval. Other institutional arrangements which meant to assure equal rights and participation of the provinces were never made functional. The federal government – which in a legal sense was meant to be one of the unit of the federation – took over the federation.
Bhutto’s judicial murder, followed by 11 years of military rule, could not finish off the PPP and its popularity and relevance, but Benazir Bhutto’s assassination did the trick for those who orchestrated her murder. No one in the party has been able to fill the vacuum created by her tragic departure. There is no other with her personality, intelligence and bravery – in Pakistan or even in South Asia.
The problem for the PPP is not how its critics view it. The bigger problem is the faith that has been lost in its leadership. Many of the party’s own leaders admit in private conversations that ‘it is not same old PPP’ and that the ‘the party now puts power first and the people later’. Back in the 1980s these were the same people who were jailed for sticking to the democratic cause, but they now live a luxurious life in multiple lavish homes, possibly one in Dubai or in London. The party now reflects inequality in society, instead of fighting it. It is a party of the masses led by the landed aristocracy, spiritual pirs, tribal chiefs and businessmen. One can count on one’s fingers MNAs, MPAs and Senators hailing from a less affluent background. In other words, in the name of liberating masses from all forms of slavery, the PPP hands over their destiny to the rich. However, there is also the fact that people like Senator Aijiz Dhamrah and Saeed Ghani will not find a place of recognition in any other mainstream party other than the PPP.
In its 10 years’ uninterrupted rule in Sindh, the PPP has not posed a threat to the status quo in Sindh or elsewhere. In fact, it seems to have become a party of the status quo. When one listens to its leaders’ angry slogans and fiery speeches, one wonders against whom the anger is aimed. Who is the target? They are now part of power politics, by defending business interests of property tycoons and sugar mills owners. Had Benazir Bhutto been alive today and visiting Lahore, would she have stayed in a ‘gifted’ palace? Why did the party need a palace of their own in Lahore?
It is this change of character that explains where the PPP stands today and why. Maybe because Pakistani politicians frequently visit the Gulf States, the idea of owning palaces has become natural for them. (Gohar Palace in the Ghotki district owned by the Mahar family is another example).
Will the PPP manage to reclaim its lost space and ideas? There is little possibility of that mainly because of class dominance within the party. The party’s unsuccessful governance model in Sindh does not inspire people of other provinces. And since politics has increasingly become regional, driven by ethnic interests and considerations, the PPP is frequently seen and portrayed as a Sindhi party (and Sindhi language, culture and identity is not acceptable in the mainstream media and Urdu-English culture). Thus, the PPP’s chances of bouncing back outside Sindh are limited and subject to varying factors.
Political parties are society’s intuitions built and developed over the years. , In the case of the PPP, the sacrifices of generations must not die. They represent and vanguard society’s interests and it is the weak and powerless who needs them more for their survival and progress. Without federal parties, what will be the future of the federation?

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @MushRajpar

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