Saturday May 18, 2024

PPP — Party of masses, sacrifices and tragedies

By Senator Rehman Malik
December 03, 2018

November 30 is a day for all of us, all the senior leadership and workers included, to celebrate as part of a political party, which was formed to represent federation throughout the country. Shaheed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto – the founding father of Pakistan People’s Party - was a leader with great political wisdom being a born politician and reformer with charming personality and intellect to influence his contemporaries. The PPP over period of time, under the leadership of Shaheed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and then Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto, grew bigger with the efforts and sacrifices of leadership and its workers.

Shaheed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto left the government of Ayub Khan as foreign minister over Tashkent Agreement and formed his political party – Pakistan People’s Party - on 30th November 1967 to give voice to poor people, labourers and peasants alike, to make aware of their rights and how to secure their future. The wave of support of masses to Bhutto scared the military junta resultantly a civil-military wedge was ignited by Ayub Khan, when ZAB was going to announce his party by opening fire on him. Though he survived the attack but a rift and inimical mind set was put in motion.

ZAB sworn in as PM of Pakistan in 1973 and then as prime minister consequent to promulgation of the 1973 Constitution, emerged as the most popular leader not only of Pakistan but also as a leader of Muslim Ummah. He was the man who put us on highway of development, which was shattered by the successive military governments. He was the one to lay the foundation of true democracy and paid the price for it heavily. It was he who gave a unanimously approved Constitution to the country, which provided and ensured the autonomy to federating units of the country.

His wisdom and foresight timely realised the importance of strong defence of the country against the hegemonic posture of India and USA in the region. In the background of potential nuclear threats from India, Shaheed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto conceived and put in motion nuclear programme. His remarkable declaration about nuclear power is still remembered by the nation: “We (Pakistan) will eat grass, even go hungry, but we will get one of our own (Atom bomb).... We have no other choice!”

On the diplomatic front, he realised the importance of neighbours of Pakistan and further strengthened the alliance with China as Prime Minister of Pakistan, which he had already forged as foreign minister of the country. China became a strong ally for Pakistan during his regime as prime minister. He even facilitated USA to improve its relations with China.

He introduced social reforms for Pakistan and stood up against capitalism. Unfortunately, Gen. Zia – a right-wing General of that time – overthrew his government with the backing and support of USA that was bent upon to contain the socialist leaders in the Muslim countries whereas the non-Muslim countries following socialist policies, India included, at that time of point were never touched or countered. The then US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger was on record having threatened him of dire consequences if he did not roll back the nuclear programme.

It was Shaheed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto who restored the morale of people of Pakistan by bringing back 93000 POWs from India besides securing back vast area of Pakistani territory under Indian occupation after 1971 Indo-Pak war through an agreement with India called as Simla Agreement in 1972. He stood up as a leader and secured the release of POWs and Pakistani territory, even he was representing a defeated country.

His support amongst the poor, labourers, students, landless and women was incomparable to any other politician of Pakistan. It was this love of people and his love for the people, which rightfully earned him title of Quaid-e-Awam. He served the people of the country till the last day in office and beyond that.

Finally in order to eliminate ZAB from the political scene for once for sure, he was falsely implicated in the murder case of Nawab Muhammad Ahmed Kasuri. I having gone through each file pertaining to the investigation of ZAB and can confidently say that it was a tutored case to finally execute him in 1979. It was even confessed by none other than Justice Naseem Hassan Shah, part of the Bench of Supreme Court which heard the appeal of Bhutto, who himself stated that it was not a fair trial. Even the former chief justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry – a staunch opponent of PPP - also remarked that the trial of ZAB was “not a good trial” while hearing the reference filed by the then president of Pakistan.

People were still hopping that Zia would not hang Bhutto but 5th April 1979 was the black day in Pakistan’s history that PM from Sindh was hanged to death and was shipped through a cargo plane to Mohenjo Dero under the cover of darkness.

His beloved daughter, Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto could not even hug her father for the last time, as she wasn’t allowed to step inside the cell. This judicial murder of her father made her undertake journey to take the country back on the track of democracy to revenge the takeover of the government by military junta. She had always been professing, “Democracy is the best revenge”, which proved to be valid way of revenge when she took the oath of the office of Prime Minister of Pakistan in August 1988, being the first Muslim lady to hold the office.

The family suffered heavily where Begum Nusrat Bhutto was tortured; Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto was put in jail as a young girl and finally the family was put into exile. The sacrifice of Begum Nusrat Bhutto being the biggest political victim in the hands of Gen Zia remains unquestioned. She began to lose her memory after a head injury during a PPP procession in the hands of police Lathi charge in Karachi. She was a brave lady.

Soon after this, another tragedy came their way when Shah Nawaz Bhutto got murdered in 1985 in Nice, France. I was ordered as director FIA for the investigation and reporting back information on his murder. I returned and gave full briefing on the murder of Shah Nawaz and I disclosed to BB as to he was given war poison and how he was left alone in his sitting room. The French authorities charged his Afghani wife for leaving her husband dying. Why was he killed and who was behind this murder; I will unveil the whole facts soon.

Shaheed Benazir Bhutto made historic and comprehensive policy measures and initiatives to set the country and the people on the path of development and a brighter future. Some of the major unprecedented reforms of her being the PM of Pakistan included establishment of First Women Bank, establishment of world's first all women police station, holding of Saarc conference in Pakistan, eradication of poppy plantation in the country and establishment of the new Ministry for Anti-Narcotics, distribution of free sewing machines among widows/needy women to enable them to earn their own livelihood, establishment of a separate Ministry for Youth Affairs for the first time in the country and establishment of a Women's Ministry for the first time for gender development and to address women specific issues.

On August 2, 1990, charging official corruption, nepotism, the then President Ghulam Ishaq Khan, exercising his powers under infamous Article 58 (2) (b) of the Constitution, dismissed her government by dissolving the national and provincial assemblies. He also scheduled new elections for October 1990. Over the next three years Bhutto consistently pressed for new elections despite the fact that she and her husband faced false charges of corruption. Her persistence led to repeated clashes with government forces amid charges of intimidation and partisan violence but she never gave up.

During both regimes she faced politically motivated allegations of corruption by her political opponents from Islamist parties and the military made certain plans to destabilise her inexperienced administration as both of the governments led by her were dismissed amid allegations of corruption and incompetence. In between the two Bhutto administrations, Asif Zardari was consistently victimised and so arrested in 1990 and 1991 on charges of corruption; the charges were eventually dropped as it was proven that the charges were politically motivated. Most of those arrested were subsequently released.

Just months after her second tenure in power in August 1990, Zardari was arrested on October 10 on the allegations of attempted murder of Pakistani Businessman Murtaza Hussain Bukhari and extortion allegations. However, Asif Ali Zardari was released in mid-February 1993, with nothing proved against him and charges were eventually dropped as it was proven that the charges were politically motivated. Three years later, Mohtarma rose to power again with the same opposition, the same manipulation, and the same results.

Next time I saw both mother and daughter crying over the murder of Mir Murtaza Bhutto on September 20, 1996 when he along with his six party workers was also shot dead in a suspected police encounter in Karachi. This was the third tragedy for her.

Again in October 1998, the government of the time indicted Asif Ali Zardari and Benazir Bhutto for Mehran Gate scandal and now it is an open secret that who actually was involved in it but still they were not punished. Instead Asif Ali Zardari was sentenced to 5 years in prison, fined of $8.6 million and disqualified from holding public office. He was also accused of murdering his bother-in-law Mir Murtaza Bhutto but Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto who was living in London at that time, denounced the decision.

In May 1999 Asif Ali Zardari was brought to a police interrogation center in Karachi, where he was kept awake for 4 days, beaten, and cut with knives. He was immensely tortured yet he bore the hardship with fortitude. Despite no charge ever being proven against him, he spent eleven and a half years in prison in conditions often unacceptable by human rights standards.

He contested parliamentary elections twice while in prison and won both as MNA and as senator. Despite many offers from the government of the time to become approver against Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto and Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) or to go abroad under a negotiated political exit but he remained committed to his fight for justice and party goals. He remained in jail from November 5, 1996 to November 22, 2004 for over eight years before being granted bail by the court and hence set free, as not a single accusation against him has been proven till date. I want to ask who is going to bring those 12 years of his youth back to him. He spent 52% of his married life in prison upon politically motivated accusations.

The heir of the legacy of Gen. Zia kept on chasing both Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto and her husband Asif Ali Zardari and kept implicating them in false cases, pressurised the judges to convict both of them in false and frivolous cases, which fact was later proved through taped conversation between the judges and the ministers of PML-N government.

The struggle by Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto for the restoration of democracy in the country bore fruit in 2008 at the cost of life of Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto who was assassination by the terrorist on the fateful day of 27th December 2007. Consequent to her assassination there were potential threats of turmoil in the country but the wise and timely decision taken by her husband averted the likelihood of these incidents. He upheld the sovereignty and integrity of the country by raising slogan of “Pakistan Khappay”. By following the philosophy of Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto that “democracy is the best revenge”, Asif Ali Zardari worked for the restoration of complete democracy and thus obliged Gen. Pervez Musharraf to resign as President of Pakistan.

Asif Ali Zardari was the first democratically elected president who had completed his constitutional tenure of five years. He will stand out in history as the first president who strengthened the federation and stabilised democracy in Pakistan.

His achievements and services to the country and the people as president of Pakistan, inter alia, included restoration of 1973 Constitution through 18th Amendment, transfer of his powers to the Parliament, empowerment of Gilgit-Baltistan through assignment of special status to it, consensus approval of the 7th NFC Award, financial and administrative empowerment of the provinces, initiation of Aghaz-e-Huqooq-e-Balochistan Package, financial protection of 75 lac poor families through Benazir Income Support Programme and distribution of 12% share of 80 government institutions among 50 lac workers through BESOS. It is he only who increased Balochistan’s share from 5.1% to 9.1% in the 7th NFC Award. Allocation of 90% quota in all jobs at the Gwadar Port is another contribution to the welfare of Baloch masses.

His major economic reforms include payment of Rs2 billions as the first installment of Rs10 billion out of Rs120 billion outstanding provincial dues by the federal government, setting up a new record of $17 billion foreign exchange reserves, transfer of 30% shareholding out of the federal government’s 50% shareholding in Sindak Project to Balochistan, leveling of 10,000 acres of land to be irrigated with Mirani Dam, construction of canals and such several other measures. Conclusion of Pak-Iran gas pipeline agreement and agreement with the People’s Republic of China on Gwadar Project also deserves due credit and appreciation.

President Zardari took many concrete measures to help improve the economy and ameliorate the lot of common man. His developmental projects also include the Faisalabad-Multan Motorway, besides construction of thousand miles of roads in different areas. The commencement of CPEC Project with China will forever remain the greatest achievement of his regime.

When I look at Bilawal Bhutto Zardari I see in him a brave leader with wisdom of his mother and courageous political skills from his father. He can be seen taking up the legacy and wisdom of his mother, grandfather and his father Asif Zardari. Watching Bilawal grow with such grace and becoming now the part of National Assembly we will all witness that he will become a leader of stature and wisdom to steer the nation out of the crises and the challenges it is facing. I can see in him a young zealous leader and a wise grown up politician both. I wish both ZAB and SMBB had lived a little more to see their blood growing with such poise.

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari’s intellect has been a breath of fresh air for Pakistan’s politics. Right from the onset of his political life he has touched on several important issues, such as terrorism and the army’s role in Pakistan, amongst others. Bilawal’s politics is a far cry from the political mudslinging that takes place in our country’s politics every other day.

Just like his grandfather, mother and father he is playing politics in a democratic way, as he did not utter a single word against institutions like judiciary, army or NAB. He received appreciation from the opposition as well as the whole nation for stealing the show in the Parliament. In a bid to strength the democracy, he has always offered his support to the government for the supremacy of the Parliament and national interest.

The sacrifices of Bhutto family and the workers of PPP are unprecedented and PPP has emerged and grown with the tragedies.

I have had the honour of serving with Great ZAB as a Junior Civil servant, with Begum Nusrat Bhutto, Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto, and former president Zardari and now with Bilawal Bhutto Zardari. My association has been with the three generations of Bhutto clan and I sincerely hope to see Bilawal as PM in my lifetime. I pray that may God gives the wisdom and strength to continue to take the mission of his elders forward to bring back the glory of the party being a political party representing the federation.

The writer is Chairman of think tank "global eye" & former interior minister of Pakistan. @Email:, Twitter @Senrehmanmalik, @GlobalEye_GSA, WhatsApp +923325559393