Sunday, December 27, 2015

Daily Times Editorial Dec 28, 2015

BB remembered Another December 27 has come and gone but the serious introspection the occasion should have persuaded the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) to conduct remains conspicuous by its absence even on Benazir Bhutto's eighth death anniversary. To recall, that was the day in 2007, mere months after BB returned from an eight year self-imposed exile to escape the extreme harassment of the PML-N government at that time, that Pakistan's premier political leader was cut down by the hand of assassins who have still to be brought to justice. Suspicions still linger regarding the manner in which forensic evidence was destroyed soon after the assassination by hosing down the site. Since her widower Asif Zardari did not allow a postmortem, even the cause of death was put into doubt, with General Musharraf's regime making absurd claims of her death being an accident when she hit her head against her car's roof handle, etc. Even today, when recalling the horrible tragic details of that day, it beggars imagination that despite the PPP being in power for a full term from 2008 to 2013, the investigation (including an inconclusive one by Scotland Yard) and prosecution of the case leaves much to be desired, particularly since justice is still awaited. On the present run of the way the case has meandered along without a satisfactory and credible conclusion, the apprehension cannot be easily dismissed that it may end up like all the high profile political assassinations in our history: lost in time and translation. The PPP's commemoration of her death anniversary has spiralled downwards over the years to ritualised and predictable respect, with little thought despite the rhetoric, of whether the party still upholds her legacy. Survival in office or even in opposition seems to have emerged as the leit motif of the party under Asif Ali Zardari's stewardship. What is perhaps not realised by the party leadership despite the transition in progress to the next generation of Bhuttos/Zardaris is that this 'minimalist' approach has hollowed out the once widespread appeal of the party (an incremental process over the years). The turn, from the time BB returned from her first exile in 1986, towards an explicit and implicit acceptance of the neo-liberal paradigm that had overtaken the world alienated the traditional mass base of the PPP. This base included the working class, peasantry, students, intelligentsia and women. Today, this list cannot be taken for granted. The collapse therefore of the major left of centre party on Pakistan's political firmament has left progressive democratic politics in limbo. The worst reflection of this loss is the PPP's virtual marginalisation in Punjab, once the main bastion of the once radical PPP. This year, reports speak of the failure of the Punjab PPP to even organise a delegation to attend BB's death anniversary commemoration in Garhi Khuda Bux. How the mighty have fallen. The hopes of the PPP's rank and file now reside in the person of Bilawal Bhutto Zardari. The young leader though still has a long way to go before he can turn the tide for the party. His speech at BB's remembrance rally had little new or inspiring, even though he wittily dubbed the National Action Plan that has become a bone of contention over the Rangers issue between the federal and Sindh governments as the 'Noon' Action Plan. If Bilawal is to succeed in once again forging the PPP, a pale shadow of its former self, into an effective and inspiring party capable of once again mobilising the masses, he and the party's leadership will have to go back to the drawing board and reinvent themselves through a well thought through political programme. Going on tolling the bell just because one is a monk will no longer do. The PPP needs rethinking, introspection and a fresh visit to its aims and objectives to align them with the people's aspirations, otherwise we may still be here in future years ritually commemorating BB's martyrdom without much hope of the PPP's message finding resonance with the people. That would be a sad epitaph for her legacy.

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