- When the party is out on a limb
The PPP managed a grand show to celebrate its 50th anniversary in Islamabad where Zardari, Bilawal and important party leaders delivered speeches.
Many had hoped that the event would be held in Lahore where the party was founded in 1967. Having neglected Punjab during the last four years, however, the party could not have collected a respectful gathering at its birth place. It was easier to cart away supporters from KP and AJK to Islamabad’s Parade Lane.
The PPP’s 50th anniversary was an occasion for both celebration and introspection, all the more so when the party has been reduced over the years to a shadow of its former self. Instead of a mainstream party known as the champion of the rights of Pakistan’s workers, minorities and women, it represents today only rural Sindh. Surprisingly no exercise in introspection was undertaken during the celebrations.
Bilawal in his speech confined himself to vague generalities. He declared that he would continue with socialist reforms initiated by ZAB and BB. Does it mean he would again revert to an all-out nationalisation ordered by the Party’s founder? Does he want another exercise in land reforms? Does he intend to overstaff the nationalised entities with cronies, under the name of socialism, which ruined nationalised units like Pakistan Steel Mills and PIA? Bilawal wants to restore the writ of the state, block religious extremism, formulate policies that will bring jobs to the youth. Unless he tells in some detail how these complicated issues are to be sorted out, he is liable to be accused of mouthing clichés.
Since Bilwal does not carry Zardari’s baggage, it is time he is handed over the party leadership. Bilawal needs to give up Zardari’s unprincipled policy of reconciliation with all. The PPP must devise a new pro-people programme which is also workable and bring back to the party its populist culture. Bilawal should meanwhile be ready to undergo the rigours of politics that are the lot of a novice. Invoking ZAB or Benazir Bhutto would not help as the vast majority of voters outside Sindh is mostly unfamiliar with these names.