Sunday, July 6, 2014

Daily Times Editorial July 7, 2014

PPP’s dire straits Although this year too, as usual, the PPP held seminars to condemn the July 5, 1977 military coup against Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s government, it was inescapable that the party commemorated arguably one of the most important days in its history more with a whimper than a bang. Seminars reiterating the party’s adherence to the democratic system, going to the extent of promising support to the incumbent PML-N government against all attempts to destabilise democracy and replace it with some ‘doctored’ dispensation that would be essentiality a back door anti-democratic dispensation, were held in Islamabad, Lahore, Karachi and Quetta. The PPP reiterated its stance despite what it described as differences with the government. Senator Raza Rabbani stretched logic by arguing that the recent revelations of the US’s National Security Agency’s (NSA’s) spying on the PPP when it was in power in the last government proved that not only reactionary internal forces but also foreign imperialists were behind Bhutto’s overthrow and eventual hanging by General Ziaul Haq. Whereas the argument that the US was hostile to Bhutto because of his efforts to unite the Muslim world and give Pakistan a nuclear deterrent hold weight, to extrapolate backwards in a completely different context and time the NSA’s ‘universal’ spying on governments, political parties, organisations and even individuals as proving the point of imperialist hostility is a tenuous case. Of course the PPP’s argument that the country is suffering from religious extremism, sectarianism and terrorism because of General Zia’s ‘contributions’ to these phenomena is difficult to disagree with. The thrust of the PPP leaders and speakers' speeches on the day centred on proving the credentials of the PPP as a democratic, anti-imperialist party. The first part is proved by the track record of the PPP since the restoration of democracy in 1988 and again in 2008. However, the latter description, including what was once the PPP’s progressive or even socialist bent, would be difficult to trace in the party’s pronouncements or practice for long years now. That bent owed much to the spirit of the 1968-69 movement against Ayub Khan’s dictatorship in which the demand for the restoration of democracy was underlined with very many radical formulae in the direction of a socialist order. All that has been history for a very long time now and the PPP currently, despite its exertions, would be hard put to it to establish itself as a party of the left currently. The main reason for this decline, and the weakening of the party generally, is the loss of its once redoubtable fortress of Punjab. How the mighty have fallen if one recalls that in the 1970 elections, the received wisdom was that even if the PPP put up a lamppost as a candidate in the 1970 elections in Punjab, it would win against all comers. Bhutto’s overthrow in 1977 and subsequent hanging by General Zia in 1979 was of course a body blow to the PPP and forced it to struggle for survival against the military dictatorship’s repression as well as struggle for the restoration of democracy, the high point of which was the MRD movement of 1983. The crushing of that movement sounded with hindsight the death knell of the PPP’s left wing orientation as well. The PPP’s subsequent political trajectory under Ms Benazir Bhutto reflected a pragmatic acceptance of the currents of the time, centred on liberal democracy and neo-liberal economics. That of course left little or no room for left wing ideas. Not only did the PPP as an organisation decline in its stronghold Punjab since 1977 because of extreme repression, its subsequent leadership in Punjab never proved equal to the task of survival, revival and dynamism required in Punjab on the basis of the original programme of the rights of workers, peasants and the common man. Incremental abandonment of the party’s left ideology has rendered it, apart from leadership issues, weak and ineffective in Punjab. The results of last year’s elections prove the point, in which the PPP was virtually wiped out in Punjab, where the contest was largely between the right wing PML-N and the PTI. The party has been reduced to a rump party with support only in Sindh. To restore its glory days, the PPP will have to return to its left roots, especially in Punjab, and bring in a leadership in the province capable of inspiring the demoralised ranks of its workers and supporters.

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