- Chairman Bhutto had personalised the Party
A theme repeatedly expressed by the leaders and supporters of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) on July 5 ever year is the condemnation of General Zia for overthrowing the government of their Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. What they do not admit is that it became possible because the Party had become weak due to the purge of the ‘Leftists’ from the Party. Historically, all parties have factions vying for power from within. PPP was no different. Even the parties considered to be the most monolithic such as the Communist Party under Lenin and the Nazi Party under Hitler had jostling factions. Instead of balancing them, the PPP Chairman Bhutto is accused of playing one faction against the other.
As long as the ‘Leftist’ faction remained ascendant, the Party remained popular and strong manifesting its strength through the popular movement that dislodged the government of Field Marshal Ayub Khan and the victory in the 1970 general elections that brought it into power. The Party’s most popular slogans were rooted in Leninist rhetoric. “Rooti, kapra aur makan” and “All power to the people” (taqat ka sarshasma awam hein) were echoes of Lenin’s slogans of “land, peace, bread” and “All power to the soviets,” respectively. Added to it was the equally appealing socialist slogan of “Socialism is our economy” that promised the abolition of feudalism and exploitative hold of the twenty-two capitalist families on the national economy as well as dignity and respect to the common man. It was the ‘Leftists’ that were the early ‘jiyala’ protagonists of the Party fully committed to the transformation of society on socialist lines.
Efforts were made to achieve ‘Leftist’ ideals through the influence of the ‘Leftist’ ministers in Bhutto’s Cabinets but within a few years either they were purged or forced to leave the Cabinets due to mounting ideological rifts and frustrations which are the focus of research of Dr Naumana Kiran, an historian of the Punjab University. One can say that the PPP was a left-of-the-centre Party in the early years of its government; however, in the post-1973 constitution period, the balance of power had clearly shifted in favour of the ‘Rightist’ faction.
After assuming power, the Party struggled to sort its priorities. Miraj Mohammad Khan, the minister of state for public affairs demanded the elimination of feudalism first whereas Bhutto wanted to sort out the capitalists first because he thought that not feudalism but imperialism was a bigger threat which depended on capitalism. Moreover, Miraj Mohammad Khan was a popular leader among the labour class and was unhappy with the labour policies of his government. When the government resorted to repressive measures to quell the labour unrest in Karachi for which the ‘Rightist’ Minister for Information and Broadcasting and Religious Affairs Maulana Kausar Niazi held Miraj responsible, the latter resigned and complained, “I was first warned against my habit to mix with common people. Then I was told to learn and observe manners expected of a cabinet minister. Now, I have been axed because I am trying to practice what he [Bhutto] used to preach.” For his criticism of Bhutto as a ‘dictator’ and the PPP government as a ‘fascist’ government, he was thrown in the jail.
The next ‘Leftist’ minister that had to resign from the Cabinet was Khursheed Hassan Meer, the minister without portfolio who looked after the Establishment Division. He believed in the implementation of scientific socialism whereas Kausar Niazi argued in favour of Islamic socialism. Over time, fourteen members of the National Assembly issued a statement condemning Meer for spreading communism in the country and in indulging in a smear campaign against the person of Kausar Niazi. When Bhutto did not come to Meer’s rescue, he resigned from his post and began to sit on the opposition benches.
The third ‘Leftist’ who was purged from the Cabinet was JA Rahim, the minister of presidential affairs, culture, town planning and agrovilles. He was one of the founding fathers of the PPP and the leader of the ‘Leftist’ faction. He developed serious differences with Bhutto over the appointment of two landlords Fazal Elahi Chaudhry as president and Sahibzada Farooq Ali as the Speaker of the National Assembly. Furthermore, he strongly objected over the appointment of a former bureaucrat Aziz Ahmed as a minister of state because of latter’s close association with Ayub Khan. Being the chief ideologue of the PPP, Rahim did not refrain from criticising the Party’s chairman in the Cabinet meetings accusing the latter of “destroying Party’s ideology and morale.” So blunt was his criticism that Bhutto had to order him to leave the Cabinet’s meeting room and subsequently dismissed him from the Cabinet. Not content, Rahim continued to publicly criticise Bhutto’s internal and external policies. Matters came to a head in July 1974 when after waiting for hours for Bhutto at a meeting, he left, saying, “You bloody flunkies can wait as long as you like for the Maharaja of Larkana, I am going.” Late in the night, the goons of the notorious Federal Security Force (FSF) beat him badly at his residence.
The last ‘Leftist’ who refused to accept a portfolio in the fourth Cabinet of the PPP government was Dr Mubashir Hasan. He emphasised upon speedy implementation of socialist policies
The last ‘Leftist’ who refused to accept a portfolio in the fourth Cabinet of the PPP government was Dr Mubashir Hasan. He emphasised upon speedy implementation of socialist policies whereas Abdul Hafiz Pirzada, the minister of education, law and parliamentary affairs prevailed upon the chairman to go slow. Moreover, he was unhappy over the growing influence of the ‘Rightists’ in the Cabinet, particularly Maulana Kausar Niazi’s closeness to Bhutto. In a long letter, he informed Bhutto that he was resigning from the Cabinet primarily because of chairman’s tilt towards obscurantist interpretations of Islam and mistreatment of his colleague JA Rahim. The only ‘Leftist’ who survived in the Cabinet was Sheikh Mohammad Rasheed, who, being a submissive person, did not dare to challenge Bhutto’s orders.
When all these purged ‘Leftists’ leaders constituted the bedrock of the PPP, why were they axed out one after the other? Just because by the end of 1974, Chairman Bhutto had personalised the Party and is on the record to have said, “I am the People’s Party and they are all my creatures.”