IN THE NEWS: FIFTY YEARS OF FRUSTRATION (DECEMBER 4, 2017)

Written by admin on Monday, December 4th, 2017

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Fifty years of frustration
SOURCE: The Express Tribune
Monday, December 4, 2017
By KAMAL SIDDIQI

Possibly the biggest joke that has been played with the country’s liberal and progressive forces is the Pakistan People’s Party. This party has consistently let down the forces of reason and common sense, and yet for many it represents the only hope for Pakistan’s redemption in the coming years.

As the PPP celebrates its 50 years, one needs to put into perspective the disappointment and the frustration that the party has consistently provided to some of its ardent supporters and admirers. I confess I have voted for the party at a time when the rest of my city was voting for the MQM. And yet one day I decided that enough is enough. One cannot keep on voting for cheats and charlatans. Only those who have lost all modicum of common sense can continue to support a party whose hallmark is corruption and incompetence.

Over the years as a journalist, I have interviewed and interacted with a number of people — many of whom have been die-hard supporters of the PPP.

One memorable series I did was for Tribune Labs where I sat down for days on end with the legendary Mairaj Muhammad Khan and catalogued his political life and the role he and his colleagues played in the formation of the PPP.

Mairaj Sahib was a titan — never once did he belittle or question the role of his leader, the great Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. And yet, he did remark that one of the reasons why the country was not up in arms over the hanging of Bhutto sahib was because by the time this act was committed, the party was no more that of the people — it was the party of the landed gentry, many of whom conveniently embraced the martial law of General Ziaul Haq.

Bhutto let down his most ardent supporters. And the party could never explain the role of their leader in the creation of Bangladesh. These thorns remain.

And yet, come 1988, one was hopeful for change with the assumption of office by Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto. But Benazir never had a chance. She continued to build bridges and accommodate the establishment, which in turn led to her ouster — not once but several times over.

My mentor, Ghazi Salahuddin, says that the PPP is somewhat like the city of Karachi. Chaotic, confused and corrupt but the only livable place in Pakistan. I lived by that mantra for long. But along the line, I started to resent the manner in which the party operated. The appointment of Qaim Ali Shah for one — possibly the most corrupt and inept chief minister Pakistan has ever seen. His long reign based on compromises led to Karachi turning into a hell-hole. The Quaid’s city became an orphan. I continue to live here but only just. The party I voted for let me down through its misgovernance. I once counted 52 vehicles accompanying the chief minister’s convoy. This is the level of gross misuse of funds. It is the tip of the iceberg.

Today the party is unrecognisable. Asif Zardari has stuffed his family members and loyalists in every possible position. Young Bilawal is barely able to breathe. And yet, the legacy of Mr Bhutto continues to keep the party going.

But for how long. If one takes a tour of Sindh, leave aside Karachi, the only story one sees is that of neglect and corruption. It is the stupidity of the electorate that they continue to vote for the PPP. I would vote for the rightist PTI instead.

If there is any silver lining, that is in the form of the present chief minister of Sindh, Murad Ali Shah. This right-minded chief minister has tried to set things right. But there is a limit to what he can do. He cannot change the party leadership.

Granted the PPP has suffered greatly over the years. The sacrifices given by the Bhutto family as well as jiyalas are documented. And yet, one wonders for what. Jail, execution, splits, forced exit, triumphant return, compromises, intrigue, conspiracy, assassination, feuds, relentless persecution, betrayal — the PPP has been through it all.

The PPP over the years has continued to disappoint. And the future promises the same. And yet, no other political entity in Pakistan draws reactions as extreme as this party has done over the decades. Where do we go from here?

 

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