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June 19, 2018

A tale of disillusionment


June 19, 2018

The inability of mainstream political parties, especially the PPP, to create a progressive vision for the country and deliver on it could have a negative effect on our fledgling democratic process. Disillusioned by the failures of governance under the PPP’s 10-year rule in Sindh, a large number of citizens are struggling to take the democratic process forward and are easily falling prey to an anti-democracy narrative.

Although it has made some good legislative progress, the PPP has failed to govern Sindh on many fronts. The people of Sindh could have been far better off today if a progressive and accountable governance model had been put in place to cater to their needs. An unscrupulous structure of governance and the deplorable state of public services – such as education, health, water supply, sanitation, and food and nutrition – are not just exaggerated figures put forward by an increasingly hostile media or political opponents, but have also been repeatedly proved through independent surveys. These statistics are an outcome of the poor delivery of development programmes and public services.

Bad governance is demonstrated through the mismanagement of natural resources; the inefficient use of available finances; the massive leakage in public funds; nepotism; and the constant state of denial that Sindh’s people live in. Efforts to promote talent and competence, end corruption, and discourage bad practices have lost all meaning. A vast majority of people have internalised these bad practices.

People have been locked in a client-patron relationship, which is not the future of progressive politics. It is a rotten ideology based on coercion that has been promoted by our colonial masters. A new vision must carry the power of ideas, ensure the smooth delivery of public services, and consider people to be empowered citizens rather than subjects. Sindh’s middle class, which values a democratic system, is worried about the PPP. This is not because they have co-opted with its opponents or have been influenced by their ideologies, but because of the constant failure of the PPP leadership to deliver on its promises.

The outcome of the PPP’s governance model is visible. Widespread rural poverty; malnourishment; a deteriorating security situation; the poor enforcement of property rights; violence against women; a dearth of essential urban infrastructure that enables investment and create job opportunities; and a serious deficit in human resource development. It would not be an exaggeration to say that there is a positive correlation between poverty and the PPP’s winning constituencies. Even in urban areas, the PPP wins from impoverished or less developed constituencies.

There are various reasons why people in Sindh have expressed concerns about the PPP and its capacity to govern the province. Since its inception, the PPP has been unconditionally supported by the people, which may help it form the next government in Sindh. The PPP is also the only organised force in the province with a political history, even though the party has sidelined many of its good politicians.

Over the years, people have witnessed the state’s wrath. But they have never wavered in their firm belief in the values that the PPP has espoused, including democracy, rule of law, freedom of speech, and fairness and justice for all.

The PPP has gone off track since its leadership took over after 2008. The old guards of people’s rights and progressive thinkers have either been silenced or have lost the energy to reform the party. Undemocratic forces alone cannot be blamed for the current state of affairs in party. There is no doubt that a hostile attitude has been maintained towards the PPP. There has been disproportionate media criticism and an unfair approach towards the party since its inception. But the current crisis of the PPP’s image is linked with its performance throughout entire country – especially in Sindh, where it has been ruling continuously over the last decade.

The PPP’s declining image is not merely a fabricated story. It has its roots in the party’s failed leadership ideology that prioritises the need to earn as much as possible from politics and then re-invest it to capture power. The French economist puts this elegantly: “When plunder becomes a way of life for a group of men in a society, over the course of time they create for themselves a legal system that authorises it and a moral code that glorifies it”.

To overcome its current image crisis, the PPP must demonstrate a progressive vision. It must seek a significant change in leadership rather than a series of ceremonial changes that deflect people from the truth. The major challenges that the PPP faces include a lack of clarity over who wields the ultimate power. This state of affairs produces confusion and delays key decision-making processes.

The PPP must effectively reform and reinvent itself. The party must redefine its mandate according to the changing circumstances. Although this is a challenging task, it isn’t impossible to regain the trust of the people. Practical steps are needed to demonstrate that the party will gradually shift its focus towards a new middle class-oriented, gender-sensitive leadership, which is driven by dedication, passion and the spirit to transform society.

If radical reorganisation doesn’t take place within the party’s ranks, the same people will seize power and strengthen the existing order, which has deprived cities of essential infrastructure, destroyed the agriculture-based rural economy, fuelled the feudal order, and facilitated a process that has practically crippled public services.

Another five years will be lost if we don’t bring a meaningful change in the province. We don’t want a situation where children who were born in 2008 will have a bleak future ahead of them in Sindh.

The writer is an Islamabad-based

environmental and human rightsactivist.

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