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Mr. Zardari, Manu Bheels do not need Food, Clothing, and Shelter

The article argues that it was in 1968 that Pakistan Peoples Party snatched the slogan of Roti (Food), Kapra (Clothing) and Makaan (Shelter) from the Left. Even today it is harping the same tune, while the Left parties both in India and Pakistan are shifting from Poverty to Justice as the core demand.

by Dr. Khalil Ahmad

Dear Mr. Asif Ali Zardari! As you are a seasoned politician and have gone through thick and thin of Pakistani politics, it must be known to you that it was Pakistan Peoples Party that first snatched the poverty slogan from the Left and took advantage of it. When we reflect back, it appears that Ayub’s era was not so much known for the wide spread poverty as it was used both as a pretext and context against which the slogan of Roti, Kapra, aur Makaan was raised and the ordinary people of Pakistan were misled into a devastating peoples government. To everyone it is like rudimentary knowledge that government does not create any wealth. As it is said, money grows in the pockets of citizens; likewise, it is individuals who create wealth. What a government does is it takes from Zaid to pay Omar, sure keeping after its share that continues to increase as the government swells.

While a child then, I remember Habib Jalib reciting one of his famous poems, Bees rupayye man aata, is par bhi hay sannata (Flour sells at Rs.20 per maund, even then there is dead silence) to a scant audience in a bazaar. It was in 1968 before the downfall of Ayub. But I still have a vivid memory of myself standing for long hours in queues for buying flour, sugar, kerosene oil under PP government. Now I see how horrible it was that the whole society of ordinary people of Pakistan was regimented, enrolled and issued ration cards for a fixed quota of ration distributed periodically at controlled prices.

Wasn’t it an undeniable sign of destroyed market? But no one can deny that during Ayub’s regime, market did exist. The best explanation that has been put forth to absolve the 22 families of the blame that they had most of the wealth of the country concentrated in their hands comes from Dr. Mahboob ul Haq. He says actually it was the system to blame that created these families. As he further explains that instead of reforming the economic as well as social and political institutions, a few individuals were targeted. Didn’t the whole nationalization amount to this ‘convenient camouflage’, to use the words of Dr. Haq?

Thus, the PP set on an agenda of destroying the 22 families and distributing their wealth to the people who thought it belonged to them. Instead of creating an environment in which the number of 22 could multiply to 22, 000, or to 22, 000, 000 so to say, it killed the goose that laid the golden eggs. The PP nationalization deprived Pakistan of its economic, industrial and financial, and educational base as well. The market and its values of business were replaced with government monopolies and their values of parasitism, and private ownership was replaced with a collective one.

Mr. Zardari! More than that, it was the PP which in 1971 provided the military dictatorship with respiration at a critical juncture and prolonged its life. Since its founding, this policy of complicity with the establishment (a conglomerate of civil and military bureaucracy and other parasite classes) has been a hall-mark of the PP’s politics. It’s evident that the PP never learns from the horrible experiences such as that of its top leaders’ murders. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was hanged and Benazir Bhutto was brutally assassinated by the same establishment. And once again, the PP is going to have the same fatal hug with the establishment. Why it is so that just three months after the killing of Benazir Bhutto, your PP again seems to be whisking seductively into the lap of the same establishment! What is it up to?

This is just to remind you, lest you should forget under the euphoria of enjoying unbridled power that the slogan of Roti, Kapra, aur Makaan has lost all its meaning and relevance and its using now is like beating a dead horse. The attempt to win the February 18 elections on the basis of so-called development by General Musharraf’s party, PML (Q), has miserably failed. Almost all of the Communists and parties of the Left both in India and Pakistan have gone for a review of it, and are shifting towards justice as the core demand. You might know that our Left groups have been and are whole-heartedly participating in the lawyers’ rallies for the restoration of the deposed judges.

Mr. Zardari! People do not want Roti, Kapra, aur Makaan; they need justice. This is the truth of the day. Just one example to prove the point would suffice here. This is a symbolic case:

Manu Bheel is a poor hari (peasant). About ten years back, 9 members of his family were kidnapped by an influential landlord in your province, Sindh. Since then he is trying hard to seek their recovery. He needs justice. He has no job as presently he is living in a HRCP’s camp in district Jamshoro, and cannot go out for fear of his life. He is being supported by his relatives. His only urge is to have justice he has constantly been denied.

Mr. Zardari! Isn’t it an utter failure of the whole state machinery that during the long period of 10 years it could not recover Manu’s family members? Not only this shows the absence of any will on the part of federal or provincial governments to help the hapless Bheel or Bheels, but also is enough proof of both governments’ deliberate complicity with those who may have been involved in the crime. It is on record that how concerned authorities have been active to exhaust the case before it reaches its logical conclusion. When the Honorable Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry took suo moto notice of the case, how there were efforts to create hurdles not to let the investigation reach a conclusive end. Is this the purpose of a state to deny justice to its citizens?

Mr. Zardari! Do you want Pakistan to be such a state? Do you want Pakistan to be ruled by those who are the greatest hurdles in the dispensation of justice to its citizens? Do you want Pakistan to be ruled by the likes of those who have been constantly up to annihilating the Pakistan Peoples Party? Do you want to compromise with those whom you think kept you persecuting for years and years? Do you want your PP always strengthening the establishment? Do you want to hug the MQM and make the deposed judges target of your vengeance? Was the judiciary real culprit, or those with whom you are seeking reconciliation? Do you want to be an ally of the one who has suspended and subverted the constitution the supremacy of which you seek to restore? Do you want to lose the opportunity to restore the legitimate status of the parliament that was held back by a dictator?

Mr. Zardari! It’s high time you realize the stakes and the significance of the opportunity. Do not be one of those who want to deny justice to the ordinary people of Pakistan. Do not deny them rule of law that is the only good that a state can do to its citizens. You know everyone labors and earns his and his family’s bread. You know crores of other Manu Bheels are earning their own living. They do not want Roti, Kapra, aur Makaan. The only thing they want from the state is protection of their and their family’s life and their rights, and justice. Manu Bheel’s long ordeal to seek justice is connected with the restoration of deposed judiciary. Rather, every Pakistani’s hope for justice rests with an independent judiciary. If this deposed judiciary is not restored in toto, this failure will kill every hope and longing for rule of law in Pakistan. Do not betray people. Fear that they will betray you into oblivion where no one will ever come to your help!

This article appeared in The Post on April 12, 2008.