PPP’s Trojan Horses

Posted: August 21, 2008 in Political
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PPP’s Trojan Horses

By Wajid Shamsul Hasan

Lately there has been a well-orchestrated media blitzkrieg against Pakistan People’s Party and its leader Senator Asif Ali Zardari. Even some senior journalists have started painting doomsday scenario regarding PPP’s future obviously casting doubts on its present. The overall picture has doubly confounded the confusion.

As a detached observer sitting over 5000 miles away from Pakistan I have reasons to assume that besides everything that is being churned out is overly linked to divert the attention from the profound ramifications of the murder most foul of martyred Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto and the larger conspiracy behind the dastardly deed to obliterate PPP from the body politics of Pakistan—a long standing objective of the establishment and vested interests.

The other day a PPP minister in the Frontier Coalition had expressed his concern over the activities of some of the old Trojan horses (and mares) in the party trying to de-stabilize it or undermine it—perhaps—some to promote their own selfish interests after having been sidelined in the larger interest of the party in the post-SMBB assassination period and others to complete the mission assigned to them by the invisible hands that had planted them in PPP since ages to strike when the situation for such action would be ripe as had been done by Farooq Leghari. His statement has definitely become relevant and has acquired significance to be effectively nipped in the bud in view of the recent moves by Makhdoom Amin Fahim, Naheed Khan, Safdar Abbasi and host of others. They virtually took over the party in the period of exile of SMBB and long incarceration of Senator Asif Zardari, ran it as their personal fief disenchanting the loyal workers and many senior leaders.

While SMBB burnt midnight oil and denied enough care to her children while her spouse was in jail—to keep the party and its popularity intact against heavy adds and machinations of quislings within, those who styled themselves as her so-called trusted lieutenants did everything that did not contribute to strengthen the party except to earn them pelf and power while feigning successfully as opposition leaders.

Attempts at destroying PPP, undermining its strength and weakening it have not been new. Ever since its populist ascendancy and acquisition of a permanent unchallenged position in Pakistan’s politics under the leadership of its founder Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and later under Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto Shaheed as the sole challenger to the establishment’s power troika and as the only political force gnawing at its roots the exploitative vested interests, it has successfully braved all storms, machinations and internal conspiracies by leaders who have either tried to take it over or break it.

When General Zia staged a coup against ZAB the majority of the PPP leaders and workers remained loyal and stood steadfast by him, a few quislings (as is seen now with the emergence of a group of the ‘trusted lieutenants’ that wants to hijack it) did try to break or hijack the party. Though in prison ZAB had seen through the game and was aware of Zia’s conspiracy to take over the party. He neither chose his party’s “Sohna Munda” nor his “talented cousin” but wisely preferred his brave wife Begum Nusrat Bhutto with the help of “his dearest daughter” to lead the PPP in the most challenging and difficult times. And when Begum Sahiba’s health deteriorated following an unhealed head injury inflicted on her by Zia’s storm troopers in Lahore, Benazir Bhutto was passed on the mantle of leadership through a consensus of ZAB loyalists who had seen through the sinister game of connivance with Zia by a handful of senior leaders assigned by him to capture the PPP to serve him.

Benazir Bhutto’s ascendency as party leader was not aimed at continuing Bhutto family’s hold on the party but to protect and preserve ZAB’s political legacy under volley of threats of take over by the scavengers let loose on it by the dictator.

Some “uncles” who had ambitions of their own—more so encouraged, assisted and promised by Zia—their pound of flesh in power—after having been thwarted by SMBB’s determination and dauntless defense of her father’s political legacy—sought to establish their own brands of fake PPPs (such as Progressive People’s Party, National People’s Party and later more so as Shaheed groups) only to be shown boot by the masses. The moment these leaders deserted PPP betraying the Shaheed Baba, the masses rendered them into political dwarfs. Expelled by PPP many of the “uncles” remain political orphans to this day more or less like Farooq Leghari.

ZAB gave his life to make PPP a bastion of populist power. It became an ever lasting bulwark of democracy, rule of law and sovereignty of the masses as the sole arbiters of power by the sacrifices of its tens and thousands of workers who braved dictatorial bayonet and bullet to keep PPP alive and formidable. And had he not handed its leadership over to his dauntless wife Begum Nusrat Bhutto to be succeeded by his brave and courageous daughter Benazir Bhutto PPP by now would have been rendered into yet another PML-Q. ZAB’s faith in grooming his daughter Benazir as his political successor rather than his male sibling or any of the so-called ‘uncles’ proved the greatness of his vision to see things beyond.

I can claim with least fear of contradiction (having remained closest to her during her 30-year long political career) that preservation of Bhutto-iite identity of PPP and through it service to the people of Pakistan, preservation of the federation, alleviation of the sufferings of the downtrodden masses, empowerment of less privileged including women, minorities and children—were more dear to her than her life. Since preservation of PPP and its identity were very precious for her to safeguard and continue ZAB’s political legacy that had changed the complexion of Pakistan’s politics—she was also overly conscious of the attempts that were made to hijack the party in the past and had remained apprehensive of imminence of such attempt to her end.

What had shaken her confidence in some of those people in her party who owed their political careers to her because they owed everything to her including their rags to riches—was the betrayal by Farooq Leghari. I am privy to a handwritten letter from him to SMBB soon after her father’s execution assuring her that as a Baloch he was honor bound to stand by her through thick and thin like a brother and even to give his life for her. I wish Sardar Sherbaz Mazari had published his memoirs earlier. One would have learnt about the “other side” of the character of the Tahajudguzar Tamundar of New Choti. It would have made Bibi think twice before nominating him for the presidency.

Farooq’s stabbing in her back had shaken her confidence a great deal. Once discussing why he did it I reminded her that in intelligence business lot of long term investment is made for using the agent only once but at the right time—that could even be 20 years. And Farooq just did that. Whatever he did thinking that he would be the king—he forget that there sits a Lord above who no one can bribe. It is indeed divine justice that the person who once was the president is a political pariah.

When 2002 elections were called we used to sit for hours discussing the pros and cons. She knew that she would not be allowed to contest. Her assessment was absolutely right. Benazir-specific laws were introduced to keep her out. Not only that, such a mechanism was contrived that she could not be in a position to lead the party and if PPP had to contest it had to get registered with a new chairman. In such a situation Makhdoom Amin, being the senior vice president would have taken over.

Bibi’s case was once bitten twice shy. Besides, she had an excellent network of eyes and ears that kept feeding her what was being conspired in the corridors of power in Islamabad. I was summoned early in the morning to her flat to discuss the situation. I knew it must have been something important that made her call me that early especially when lot of senior PPP leaders were in London for meetings with her to discuss election strategy. “Wajid Bhai, advise me what to do. I think there is a conspiracy to take over PPP from me. Since they won’t register it with me as Chairperson we won’t be able to contest.”

After many mugs of black coffee something struck my mind. In a laconic suggestion I uttered “Bibi, why don’t you have PPPP”. She did not grasp at first but when I explained she could have a new party registered titled Pakistan Peoples Party Parliamentarian with Makhdoom Amin Fahim as its President. And that was it. No questions asked. PPPP was found. She sat on the computer, I on a chair next to her and she started typing with instructions to me not to interrupt, just to take the finished paper from the printer, read it, make any corrections—if needed—and pencil if anything was required to be added.

As a journalist who had written millions of words in a career spread over decades—I confess I have never seen the like of her. In an hour’s time she had churned out a constitution for the PPPP. Not many changes were required, copies made and then she said: “Wajid Bhai, let us reward ourselves for such a brilliant idea” and out we went to a nearby Gloucester Road coffee shop to have tea, coffee and muffins that she was very fond of.

Later in the day she called all the PPP leaders and surprised them with the PPPP package. It was opposed by every one. They had different reasons for rejecting the suggestion of setting up another PPP. Some believed they would badly fare in elections. Others thought it was a joke. They all became serious when she told them point blank “take it or leave it”—”I will not hand over Bhutto Sahib’s PPP to any one—whether one likes it or not”. She also explained to them with irrefutable arguments that “by propping up PPPP I have punctured a plot to take over the original party”. And finally she convinced most of them while one or two among them must have started immediately toying with the idea of their becoming prime minister. (About it more later). PPPP move paid off, it got largest number of seats and votes and MAF thought he would be the prime minister.

Throughout the period of her long exile she continuously knocked one door after the other with a hope that some day there would be an opening and foreign supporters of dictatorship in Pakistan will realize that there is no alternate to democracy. A decade of global networking by her led to successes that made elections inevitable.

Though think tanks and experts had been forecasting an unavoidable denouement writ large as Pakistan’s fate especially when powers that be wanted SMBB to stay away from Pakistan. But Bhutto had to return—at the cost of her life—to try to save the federation from breaking up. Though she had all the evidence that she had been consigned to death by her enemies, she took upon them with steeled courage and determination to save her country. After all it was her countrywide popular acceptance as the savior of Pakistan—like her father Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto– that had kept the four federating units together notwithstanding the disenchantment of the people of the three smaller provinces who have had enough of exploitation by Islamabad’s Bonapartist rulers.

SMBB much before she boarded the plane on her fatal journey knew well that she was walking into the hornet’s nest. Just on the eve of her departure she told me she wanted me to stay in London –”you never know what is in store for me.” I expressed my fears about her life in view of the venomous hatred for her among her enemies. As usual she responded “life and death is in the hands of Allah”. It was a brave heart’s force of her conviction to save Pakistan that compelled her to smilingly die for the cause that was dearest to her. I do not have proper words to express how rare her courage must have been to write a will two days before her departure to Pakistan—on the basis of information received by her from her knowledgeable friends—that she would be killed. The will—in her unwavering handwriting that I can recognize from far and in green ink—the color that she loved most—will be remembered as the historic parchment engrained on the sands of time by the force of her conviction.

Those who planned SMBB’s murder must have taken it for granted that Makhdoom Amin Faheem will become the party chairman and the prime minister after her death. But they did not know that SMBB was always two steps ahead of them and that she would leave a will and nominate her successor. I am sure Makhdoom Sahib and others also would recall discussions that were held even when SMBB was alive as to who would be the prime minister for three months. She used to say that she will appoint Faryal Talpur or Azra as interim prime minister.”

She did not want history of 2002 repeat when a forward block had been made in the party. She also did not want a split in the party. She had by that time become fully aware of the scavengers waiting in the wings because they were part of the murder conspiracy. Writing her will just at that time—no doubt an act of rare courage—while nominating Asif Zardari as her successor was not only to avoid spilt in the party but to protect and preserve its integrity. Indeed, her apprehensions are proving right. And like Farooq Leghari, those who could have been least expected of betraying her due to their claim to be closest to her stand exposed as major villains of the piece.

SMBB had known Naheed Khan had her group. She was aware of Makhdoom Amin Fahim’s and a few others too. Had she been alive today she would have dismantled all their fiefdoms that had come out due to her long absence and resoldered PPP into a solid party that she had left behind when she went into exile. I hope SAZ will pick up the party pieces and get rid of the two-timing quislings and Trojan horses. PPP workers are wedded to Bhutto’s political legacy and not to personal whims, likes and dislikes of Khans or Khanums.

Those who think there can be a split in PPP are most certainly wrong. Many in the past too tried but all their attempts fell flat on their faces and they rest in pieces in the dustbin of history. I am sure if Asif Zardari continues with Benazir Bhutto’s policies as PPP’s co-chairman those who want to do meaningful politics they will have no choice but to follow him. Whatever, he must remain on guard against the snakes in the grass and scotch them before they bite him. He must remember Bhutto commitment—power to the people. PPP’s strength is not in some bunch of heavy weight opportunists but in the heart and soul of the poor masses. He must get down to real business of translating party manifesto of roti, kapra and makan. That would be the best answer to his critics and bury permanently their itch to hijack the party. Zardari must remember that he has qualities of leadership in him. He proved it once when he saved the country when he stood up like a rock to defend Benazir Bhutto’s federal Pakistan against the angry slogans of “Pakistan Na-Khappe” in Sindh and other smaller provinces. He can bury all his critics through action and performance by alleviating the sufferings of the masses. (END)

(The views expressed herein are the writers’ own and do not reflect those of Mudasser’s Blog)

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