November 30, 2022, marked the 55th anniversary of the formation of the Pakistan People’s Party. Ever since its inception in 1967, it has been one of the most distinguished and prominent political forces in the country, forming federal governments in 1973, 1988, 1993 and 2008 respectively. This, however, was never a smooth journey as numerous attempts were made to break and even eradicate the party over the years.
Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, the PPP founder, created history by accomplishing various milestones in a short period; eventually becoming a victim of the international conspiracy through local collaboration, as his government was overthrown through an unconstitutional intervention.
Extremely charismatic and blessed with strong administrative skills, together with eloquence, he evolved as a natural orator and a born leader, as he pulled massive crowds and motivated/mobilised the general public with some of the biggest political rallies the country has ever witnessed. The PPP was made a major mainstream political party on the domestic front, while elevating Pakistan on the global scene by successfully organising the 1974 Islamic Summit Conference in Islamabad, thereafter, initiating the country’s nuclear programme. Of the numerous accomplishments during his tenure, reforms pertaining to land ownership, labour, industrial/corporate sector, banking, education, health and law became a milestone of the party’s political manifesto and progress. Shimla Accord in 1972, improved relations with the USSR and special relations with China were also among the prominent highlights of his short tenure.
His emergence as a global leader, unifying the Islamic countries on some common agenda for raising a voice against the prevailing injustices/extortion, was not appreciated by the international establishment. Consequently, the country’s political system was derailed; leading to martial law and the start of a repressive regime as the civil/constitutional rights were suspended, thereby, starting a brutal era of repression. With the judicial murder of Z A Bhutto, the PPP leadership and the party workers faced extreme persecution; leading to a crackdown/arrest of the top leadership and the political workers, eventually leading to the exile of the Bhutto family in 1984.
Eleven years of repression highlighted by suspension of civil rights, abeyance of the constitution, extreme media censorship and controlling of masses by brutal tactics of fear and torture was camouflaged by the formation of a selected/controlled cabinet termed Majlis e Shoura, followed by a phoney referendum in 1984 to prolong the dictator’s tenure as President for another five years. Thereafter, staged and controlled elections were held in 1985 that was mutually boycotted by the MRD as the struggle for genuine democracy continued. Consistency, perseverance and pursuance, eventually led to return of Benazir Bhutto’s return to Pakistan in 1986 as the struggle against dictatorship continued and gained momentum.
The end of Gen. Zia ul Haq’s dictatorial regime on August 17, 1988, marked the beginning of a new era for Pakistani politics. There was jubilation among the PPP workers as the general elections were called in November 1988, after the end of the Zia era and Benazir Bhutto became the youngest prime minister of Pakistan and the first female prime minister of the Islamic world. Unfortunately, the assembly could not complete its tenure since it was dissolved in less than two years as forces behind the scene intervened through President Ghulam Ishaq Khan. The musical chair continued as the assemblies were once again dissolved on November 5, 1996, during her second tenure as Prime Minister, lasting a little over three years. She continued her political struggle for the restoration of democracy in exile after another martial law was imposed on October 12, 1999; signing the Charter of Democracy with the opposition parties in London in 2007 and received a tremendous ovation on returning to Pakistan in 2007 after an exile of almost a decade. After surviving an assassination attempt during a political rally on her return, she was tragically martyred on December 27, 2007, shortly before the upcoming elections while returning after her historic speech at Liaqat Bagh, Rawalpindi. It was a speech that moved the nation and it still echoes in the ears. She inherited charisma, elegance and eloquence from her father and particularly focused on women’s empowerment, and improved international relations and education.
Pakistan People’s Party once again formed the federal government after the 2008 general elections as Asif Ali Zardari took the office of President of Pakistan. His prudence and wisdom nurtured the nation that faced militancy, instability and isolation as he focused on stability and always encouraged dialogue with the opposition, promoting tolerance and progress.
Bilawal Bhutto made history by being inducted as Pakistan’s youngest foreign minister back in April this year. As a third-generation politician, he has inherited insight, vision, prudence, political wisdom and eloquence from his parents and maternal grandfather. These inherited characteristics have given him a head start in the political arena. Action speaks louder than words as he has proven his credentials in his dealing with the FATF issue. Still only 34, he has the vigour of youth at his side and is a future Prime Minister in the making for sure.
History will remember the founder of PPP Z A Bhutto as one of the greatest leaders of this country, a visionary, way ahead of his time. Despite his judicial murder and various attempts to break the party, his legacy lives on as his name remains the binding factor that connects the public with the party. From the ashes of the dictatorship, arose PPP twice, victorious, at a time when it was discarded by the political analysts with more determination and a firmer resolve than before. Long live democracy, it indeed is the best revenge, as often said by Benazir Bhutto.