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A Joint Declaration on the Importance of Collaboration, Open Trade, and Innovation in Tackling COVID-19 

As member states of the World Health Organization gather today in Geneva for the World Health Assembly, a global coalition of 31 think tanks today calls on governments to commit to open trade, collaboration and innovation in the fight against Covid-19.  Read

The Future of PPP after Benazir Bhutto

This article weighs the impact of the assassination of Benazir Bhutto on the future politics of Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and of Pakistan. It concludes that with her assassination, there is going to be no substantial change in the polity of Pakistan.

by Dr. Khalil Ahmad

The assassination of Benazir Bhutto is reminiscent of the treacherous and callous murderings rampant under erstwhile monarchies where capturing and holding the throne was the only reigning value. No familial, human or personal relations could come in the way. The same has been happening in Pakistan since its early days. The brutal power politics took the lives of many politicians, to name a few, from Liaqat Ali Khan (1951), first Prime Minster of Pakistan, to Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto (1979), the most popular leader of Pakistan. One wonders whether we still live under the Mughal Kingdom where there was no constitution, no law, no independent courts or parliament to reckon with; where Aurangzeb Alamgir imprisoned and tortured his father, and mercilessly killed his three brothers to win the throne.

The fear of murdering Benazir Bhutto was in the air from the moment she decided to come back home from her 8 year self-exile. She knew her life was in danger. But probably she rested assured that mighty Bush regime that subdued Musharraf’s enmity to her coming back, helped her cutting a deal most advantageous to her, and forced him to share power with her would protect her. That she did not know the Punjabi proverb ‘Which is nearer you, a punch or God?’ makes no difference to her death. However, as in her case, the punch proved to be nearer makes a lot of difference to her zealous supporters.

Let others contend who killed her; a question which will remain unsolved despite many a judicial inquiry. It happened with the debacle of Dacca, the greatest tragedy for a country, when in 1971 Eastern Wing of Pakistan dismembered itself to form Bangladesh. The fact is that in politics inquiry commissions and their reports do not count; here counts what people believe, and they act on what they believe. So what the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) men and women believe raises fingers on the establishment of Pakistan for directly or indirectly causing her killing.

That her death is a great loss to the country many doubt because her political legacy is precarious. But sure it is an irreparable loss to her party and its followers. The party is in disarray and the followers are in a state of shock. It is not unwarranted that the coming years will witness PPP wither away.

That’s evident from the decisions announced by the central executive of PPP and the repercussion they cause. As she willed, Benazir’s 19 years old son, Bilawal, has been crowned as Chairperson and her husband Asif Ali Zardari Co-Chairperson of the PPP. He is the same man who is still known for his kleptocratic practices during her wife’s two tenures of government. Makhdoom Amin Fahim, Vice Chairman of the PPP, will be party’s candidate for the premiership since Bilawal has six years to come of eligible age for a Prime Minister. Most important gesture that casts shadows over the PPP future is its unconditional decision of going for the polls re-scheduled from January 08, to February 18, 2008. There are some concerns that they again will be put on hold.

It seems for the post-Benazir PPP, it is business as usual, rather a spell of brisk marketing. Obviously, it means no change in the stance Benazir opted for. Whereas in view of the political edge and widespread sympathy generated by her death, it was quite pertinent that PPP should have demanded Musharraf government’s resignation, constitution of an independent election commission, release of all judges, lawyers, political workers, civil society and human rights activists imprisoned after November 3 emergency-cum-martial law, and above all, reinstatement of the deposed judges, a demand that was never on PPP’s agenda.

The present stance of PPP has caused a general resentment in the civil society as it argues it was the time that PPP could lead Pakistan to change really. They rightly foresee that if PPP in alliance with Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz Sharif) starts a movement for the ousting of Musharraf government, at least, and additionally if for the restoration of the judiciary, independent election commission, and it succeeds, even then it will be PPP that wins most of the seats both in national and provincial assemblies, and even then in the power game PPP will be the winner. But in the long run it will rid Pakistan of military dictatorships.

This leaves PPP without aiming at doing anything for real change in Pakistan. Its past shuns us from such expectations. It was the PPP that in early 1970s nationalized almost all the production units, financial institutions, and turned Pakistan’s economy into a heavily controlled one. That ultimately destroyed all the past industrialization and future investment. The taking of educational institutions including schools into the state’s hand finally deprived the country of its educational base. It was during PPP’s governments that private property rights and hence market and competition suffered most. In the guise of people’s democracy, its politics has been elitist in its consequences, revengeful while in government, violent while in opposition, and collaborationist as regards military regimes.

In the face of recurring martial laws in Pakistan, law was never allowed to take its seat and course. PPP has got a major share to be blamed for that. In fact, Benazir Bhutto fell victim to what PPP gave to Pakistan: politics of disorder, violence and elimination. It was her father who initiated every form of unlawful reckoning with his opponents. He was awarded death sentence for ordering the killing of an opponent. The truth is that with her assassination, there is going to be no substantial change in the polity of Pakistan.