By Zafar Ahmad
Inspired from socialism, Bhuttoism is the philosophy introduced in Pakistani politics by former populist Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. This ism has remained the most fascinating spell for a significant number of Pakistani voters which range from common masses to the elites of the country. With his slogan of ‘Islamic Socialism’ the charismatic leader gave a fresh hope to the divided and desperate nation. With the development of 1973 constitution this nation became a true nation from a divided crowd.
The five years in office of the late leader was indeed the start of the journey of the nation towards prosperity until the unfortunate nation was plagued with the Zia Virus which left no stone unturned to undo all the enlightenment the nation had attained under the magic of Bhuttoism. With the judicial-cum-Ziaism murder of the great leader made him immortal in Pakistani politics like the heroic death of revolutionary icon Comrade Che Gueara. The Ziaism then not just pushed the nation towards darkness but sowed lots of poisonous weeds which not just engulfed every healthy plant we were left with but the weeds soon turned into giant plants bearing poisonous fruits in the form of terrorists.
The womb of artificially and forcefully created hatred against Bhuttosim gave birth to Sharif brothers into Pakistani politics which kept nourishing under Ziaism, and then continued his legacy after his death. However, all these tactics were not strong enough to defeat the magic of Bhuttosim, which continued to inspire the PPP voters and helped the party to come to power twice. The party, however, was not able to fulfill the expectations of the voters. This was due to obvious reasons as the government was never allowed to become stable each time being dismissed unconstitutionally.
With the dictatorship of General Musharraf, Bhuttosim was again pressed and every possible attempt was made to bury this magical philosophy. Lots of politically fabricated scandals were created against the party leaders. The present chairman, for instance, had to spent majority of time during the dictatorship in prison. But again the people of Pakistan proved that Bhuttosim is a phoenix which will take a rebirth each time the rivals think they have buried it. The spectacular views of the return of the party’s Chairperson Benazir on October 18, 2007 were the practical manifestation of it. The heroic entry of Bibi alarmed a formidable threat both to the dictator as well as to the legacies of Ziaism and on December 27, 2007 the daughter of the nation was murdered brutally. This, though, orphaned the party but it also once again proved that if the legacies of Ziaism can kill to bury Bhuttoism then the ‘Jealas’ of Bhutto can give their bloods to fuel Bhuttosim.
The party despite the leadership crisis managed to come to power after 2008 elections. However, the coalition government has to face lots of challenges. On one side the party had to struggle to maintain the coalition, tackle with multiple rivals in the form of PML-N, judiciary under Iftikhar Chaudhry and General Kyani and on the other side, the party had the challenge to deliver and also to restore the constitution to its original form which the dictator and the heirs of Ziaism had amended ruthlessly. This was, no doubt, a huge challenge but the reconciliatory policies of Asif Zardari helped to cope with such challenges. This helped the party to complete his five years tenure which then strengthened the weak plant of democracy. Also the constitution was restored in its original form which includes the famous 18thamendment to the constitution.
All these, however, came at a huge cost to the party-the reconciliatory policies of the party helped the rivals especially the PML-N and the PTI to consolidate their vote banks. Also lots of scandals were created against the party most of which never got proved as per our political culture. And the party had to suffer this in the general elections 2013 when it lost most of its seats to either the PTI or the PMN-N except in Sindh. Most of the voters went towards the PTI while many others who were undecided remained indifferent.
The election brought the PML-N to power in the center and in Punjab with clear majority while the champions of change managed to win the KP. Both the parties had the chances and less challenges unlike the previous government of the PPP to serve the nation well. But, time proved that none was able to come up to the expectations of the people. Despite having clear majority and the lowest prices of oil on international market the PML-N government has given the nation nothing except fake boost of GDP. Nor it abled to overcome the load-shedding and the few megawatts of electricity generated so far are actually the product of the projects started by the PPP government. Similarly, the revolutionary CPEC project which the N-League never tires by advertising is, in fact, the result of personal efforts of Asif Zardari, the PPP’s chairman.
Same is true about the PTI which despite its anti-corruption politics has never been able to take any substantial steps to curb it in its own governed province. The PTI did give nothing to its voters except the dharna politics and rhetorical language. Furthermore, the factions within the party have exacerbated the situation and it no longer attracts the youth which were earlier seeing a hope in the form of Imran Khan.
Moreover, the PTI like the PML-N is a right wing party and none has got any strategy against the biggest menace of extremism and terrorism. Both the parties’ politics is rooted in the right wing which actually is the base of Ziasim. Under these circumstances and the lack of any other alternative, the desperate voters are once again looking towards the PPP, and the top leadership of the party recognizes this. Hence, again Bhuttosim is ready to take its revival.
The recent attempts by the party for its revival are significant in this context. The party is already in sweeping mood in Sindh and the crisis of MQM has given the party to grab few seats inside Karachi as well. Some result oriented steps have been taken in Central Punjab, for instance, genuine leaders like QamarZamanKaira, ItizazAhsan etc., are being promoted. Similarly, the young leader Bilawal can become a good card to cash the youth votes and also the liberals in the country who are annoyed from the conservatism of Ziaism. Some big giants have joined the party and in recent future many more are speculated to join the party like Shah MahmoodQuershi is rumored to join the party.
However, the strategies of the party will determine as how much the party can cash the chance by filling the political space created. The ‘Jealas’ are excited after the recent party meeting in Isalamabad where genuine workers got the opportunity to express their concerns with the top leaderships. The coming week will determine the effectiveness of the attempts for the party’s revival.
Meanwhile, the ANP is also trying for its revival in KP and the racial discrimination of Pashtuns in Punjab, and the silence of the PML-N and the PTI has given a golden chance for the party which it will definitely cash. Moreover, the Panma Scandal has shaken the base of the PML-N and irrespective of its outcome it will affect the party’s image. This will again edge the PPP as the PTI is another right wing party and also the recent decline in the PTI’s popularity suggest the party is harshly going to have any benefit out of this scandal.
To sum up, the PPP in sweeping mood in Sindh while is reviving in Punjab and KP. By making coalition with the ANP has a brighter chance to be a major contestant for the coming election. With proper mobilization, the party will have majority of women’s as well as the minority’s votes. However, all these depend on the wise strategies of the party.
In the context of Chitral, Bhutoism has especial relevancy. The ground politics suggest the party is very likely to retain the two provincial assembly seats. The party can also come in winning positions for NA seat as the PTI in Chitral has so far failed to deliver while the factions inside party have further exacerbated the situation. The only strong candidate is the current MNA ShahzadaIftIkhar, who is supposed to have brighter chances. The MNA is believed to have delivered well during his first tenure in politics. However, he has yet to decide whether he will contest on APML seat or on the PML-N. It is already evident that the PML-N has no vote bank in Chitral though the MNA himself has significant one. Besides, in case the MNA contests on the PML-N seat then he may lose the pro-Musharaf votes. And in case, he contests on Musharaf’s behalf then it is again not easy as Musharaf card will hardly be strong enough to get a sweeping victory. Nevertheless, the MNA is formidable candidate for NA in Chitral. With proper mobilization it will be the MNA versus the PPP. However, only time and wise strategy of the PPP leadership will decide as if they could be able to give a harsh competition to the MNA. Others players may also have their chances but apparently the dynamics of politics suggest otherwise.
The writer is MPhil scholar at the department of sociology, Peshawar University.