Needs to reconnect with the worker
In a rare development, Pakistan saw the transition of power from one democratically elected government to another in 2013. It was a history-making moment and the credit goes to the political parties, especially the bigger ones, who had shown maturity in not allowing the so-called third force to intervene and disturb the applecart of democracy. The PPP government faced many hiccups in completing its tenure, but it adhered to the policy of strengthening parliament and making the office of the prime minister stronger.
The 18th Amendment cleansed the constitution of clauses that had strengthened the hands of dictators in the past. However, the parliamentarians were unable to attend to the 8th Amendment. In other words, the so-called veneer of Islamisation was left as it was. It is another story that Senator Farhatullah Babar does not tire of tracing the evils of terrorism and extremism in the country to the forces of religion, that according to Babar, the state has been using to its advantage. Some of the power the PPP gained after 2008 was lost to intrigues, while the rest evaporated because of its own mistakes. The result was that the party was hardly visible in the 2013 elections; whitewashed completely from Punjab, grabbing a few seats in Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, while gaining a face-saving victory in Sindh. Why the party was painted in the corner after having spent five years in power is a story of not respecting the consent of the governed.
Even today, while in opposition, the PPP is more concerned about having the PM and his ministers showing up in parliament and senate than finding a way out of the multitude of problems inflicting the people, especially those dying in Thar or in other parts of the country for lack of basic health and other facilities. Not a single hearing has been held to assess the political failure of the PPP government in Sindh in the Senate, that claimed the life of nearly 290 children only last year. Though the politicians keep musing over the reason why the third-force keeps intervening in politics, they rarely lend their intelligence to the argument that it is the performance and the ability of the governments to prioritise policies that elevate them in the eyes of their constituents and make intrigues difficult to succeed.
The formation of the military courts not only reflects that the judicial system has failed, it is also an indication of the incompetence of subsequent governments to revive institutions
The formation of the military courts not only reflects that the judicial system has failed, it is also an indication of the incompetence of subsequent governments to revive institutions. The PPP’s loss is collateral though, it has performed poorly, it has concentrated power in the hands of party’s top echelon, and it has given wrong people the reigns to control the party in Punjab — the heart of Pakistan’s politics. Disenchantment within the party’s cadre resulted in dispirited workers with no desire to defend the party or promote it.
Speaking to DNA, PPP’s leader and former minister of information, Qamar Zamman Kaira, was candid in describing his party as almost on its knees for lack of vision and disorientation.
“The party is not in need of re-invention in Punjab only, it requires being re-invited at the country level, in fact. The fissure within the party is due to the fractures in the party’s ideology, its philosophy and its political structure. We have to work on these areas before there is any hope of regaining a foothold in the political landscape of the country. The party desperately needs to set straight its political direction”, he said.
On the question of not doing popular politics (which could be one reason why Bilawal has become aloof from his father), Kaira retorted to the oft repeated argument of supporting democracy. He said Pakistan is not in a position to face challenges posed by the political class. “Already the country is plagued by unhealthy interventions that are eating at its economic and social imperatives”.
He acknowledged that neither PPP nor any other political party has ever given respect to the constitution. In fact he said that Pakistan did not have the culture of respecting the constitution.
PPP’s reinvention depends largely on its ability to reach out to the downtrodden, which can still happen, provided party’s leadership is willing to get out of the elite cocoon
So what was it that bought bad blood between Bilawal and Zardari? Talking to Senator Jehangir Badar, who has been appointed as the political advisor to Bilawal, muddied, instead of clearing, the waters. Being not straightforward for his failure to groom the young politician, Badar eluded most of the questions on the pretext of avoiding bad press. His politics in Punjab has often been criticised for its duplicity and his strategy to rule the party by creating division in its ranks and file. He had to face a rowdy crowd on PPP’s foundation day in Lahore in November last year. He has been allegedly accused of giving away party’s position in Punjab to the PML-N in the 1988’s elections that saw the PPP routed out of Punjab and did nothing to revive it to date.
Delving into the reasons of why Zardari’s reconciliation mantra failed the party, Dr Mehdi Hassan, a renowned political analyst attributed it to the party’s separation from its political worker and by extension from the labour class.
“In its first election in 1970, the PPP won 62 out of 83 National Assembly seats from Punjab. In 1988 it grabbed 62 out of 115 National Assembly seats from Punjab. This differential was the result of the party’s indulgence in the politics of wealth where people like Jahangir Badar made hay without qualms. Manzoor Ahmed Watoo’s inclusion in the party is the narration of the same thinking the PPP began harvesting in 1988 ie the politics of wealth”, he said.
According to him, PPP’s reinvention depends largely on its ability to reach out to the downtrodden, which can still happen, provided party’s leadership is willing to get out of the elite cocoon.
“Propagandising Bhutto’s legacy has not and will not be enough for the PPP to regain its lost ground,” said Mubashar Hassan, PPP’s old stalwart and Pakistan’s former finance minister. Unless the PPP revisit its policies and reunite to the ideology of Bhutto that hinged upon democracy and socialism, there is little hope for the party to revive. The Punjab is already swayed by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) and PML-N. Time is critical and perhaps not enough to be wasted in squabbles and internal skirmishes.