Dr Ghulam Hussain, one of the few remaining old guards of the PPP, reminisces about the early days of the party
That breed of political workers who believed in ideology, did politics with a focus on common people and tried to bring them socio-economic justice is fast disappearing.
Dr Ghulam Hussain is one of the few such remaining political workers. He became the deputy secretary general of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) soon after it was founded by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto (ZAB) and rose to become a federal minister.
Dr Ghulam Hussain, twice elected member parliament from Jhelum, entered politics on the personal persuasion of ZAB when he was practicing as a medical doctor in Mandi Bahauddin after doing his MBBS in 1963.
Dr Hussain, a close confidant of ZAB in the 1970s decade, sitting in his residence in Islamabad, says that he was writing his autobiography to be published this year. The book will throw light on his struggle as he rose from a village with no electricity and finally became a medical doctor. It would include his political philosophy, insight on ZAB’s personality and political thoughts, and what happened while he was in jail in Zia’s dictatorial rule.
He showed three boxes in which he had kept the several diaries he had used to chronicle memories.
Hussain claims to have refused Swedish nationality; he still holds a Pakistani passport "because I want to continue to have a bond with this land without any conditions". He spends five to six months in the country’s capital during the year and the rest of the time he spends with his family in Sweden.
He was practicing medicine in Mandi Bahauddin in the early days of 1970 at the time whenZAB had already established his party. His politics was known to everyone and therefore Bhutto contacted him personally and offered him to contest the election of National Assembly on the newly-founded PPP’s ticket.
He contested the election and won it with a thumping majority against the local feudal lord. Then he became member of the Constitutional Committee that prepared the constitution of 1973 and "personally witnessed the whole process by which the country got its first consensus constitution".
During his own party’s government, he went behind bars twice but never shirked from taking a principled stand. Then he was appointed as advisor to the governor of Punjab from 1972-74 but never accepted a salary or perks and privileges.
When Ghulam Mustafa Khar was removed from the position of the governor of Punjab, he sternly opposed this move and stated in front of ZAB that Khar should not be removed from the post.
"Some elements were whispering into the ears of the PPP leadership that Khar’s supporters were using the slogans in his favour in public rallies more loudly than that of the main leadership and he [Khar] might be trying to assume a position as an alternate leader within the party," says Hussain.
Regarding the land reforms introduced during the first PPP regime, he says that although Bhutto belonged to a feudal family, his government had distributed thousands of acres land among landless people. "The land reforms were partially achieved but not in the true letter and spirit," he says.
Ghulam Hussain opposes the PPP’s policy of nationalisation, retrospectively of course and in the context of modern economy of the world. "ZAB used to say that we should have adopted the socialism of the Scandinavian type where big entities were nationalised but small enterprises were owned by the private sector." Russia and China have voluntarily adopted the same "mixed" economic policies by introducing reforms and achieved the desired results.
When Gen. Ziaul Haq threw out the elected government of ZAB in a coup in July 1977, Dr Ghulam Hussain was arrested. He recalls that once Ziaul Haq met ZAB along with other party leadership at Murree and inquired about problems faced by them during the era of official custody. One leader of the party in the presence of ZAB complained to him regarding the transfer of his wife. "I sitting next to that leader. When Ziaul Haq asked me if I faced any problem that he could solve, I said in a loud voice "Nothing". Then all others sitting in the room adopted the same tone and said big no to him. As soon as Zia left the room, ZAB was furious at the leader who had asked Zia for a petty favour and asked him to learn from a "young person like Dr Ghulam Hussain"."
He argues that ZAB was killed at the behest of US "because he was the architect of holding the Islamic Summit in 1974 where the Muslim leadership had taken the decision to develop a nuclear bomb. Then a conspiracy was hatched to remove Bhutto from their way".
He terms ZAB an excellent leader who knew how to effectively talk at forums like the United Nations, in the parliament and even to attract the common man of the country.
He said that it was nonsense to involve him or other political leaders in the hijacking of the PIA plane during the Zia regime. "At that time I went to Syria and met ZAB’s son Mir Murtaza Bhutto who really impressed me because when I inquired from him as to who killed his father in Pakistan, he replied that his father was killed by feudalism and his mission would to abolish feudalism."
When Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto (BB) came back to Pakistan in 1986 after several years in exile, she did not grant a PPP ticket to diehard workers like him for the 1988 elections "mainly because she did not want to annoy Uncle Sam".
He says he had made efforts to ensure a truce between Murtaza and BB during the second tenure of the Benazir-led government. He had proposed to BB that "Mohtarma Nusrat Bhutto should be appointed as governor Sindh but, in the meantime, Murtaza Bhuuto was killed during her own tenure".
"The PPP workers have never supported Zardari because he became a symbol of loot and plunder. His father Hakim Ali Zardari was an MNA along with myself in the decade of 1970s and I knew that Mr ZAB never liked him," he recalls.
On one occasion when BB asked him what the difference between ZAB’s and her own rule was, he had told her that "it was impossible to speak a lie in front of ZAB but it was difficult to speak the truth in front of you". It ultimately proved fatal for the politics of the PPP after the murder of Benazir Bhutto, he says.
When asked as to how the PPP could regain its popularity, he says that he has now joined the PPP-Shaheed Bhutto led by Ghinwa Bhutto. "The people of Pakistan can give Ghinwa the role of Sonia Gandhi if someone from Bhutto’s family came into active politics. I am suggesting to my party to convince Fatima Bhutto to come back and participate in active politics because of Pakistanis love to see Bhuttos in our politics," he added.
Keeping in view the security environment, he suggests that Fatima Bhutto should address the media, the bar councils and Bhutto Junior can also join her.
He says that he has lived his life for the people, and God has compensated him by blessing him a comfortable life in Sweden "which is the best welfare state in the world".
Now the time has come for Pakistan to be turned into a real welfare state. "We need to fight against extremists like ISIS and Taliban, by promoting teachings of tolerance and modern Islam especially among the youth," concludes Hussain.