Coming Of Age – M Usama Kabbir & Humza Ikram

Benazir Bhutto with Begum Naseem Wali at Charsada ,02 December 2007.

There was a time when the Frontier Province was the scene of fiery political rivalry between Z.A.Bhutto and Wali Khan whereas now the former ANP and PPP are coalition partners at the Center as well as the Province. There was a time when the MQM’s violent tactics forced the PPP Government to pursue for a cleansing action against militant elements in the business hub of Pakistan back in 1993. Bitter reflections of the military action haunted the political scene until the February 2008 elections. Despite having a more than two third’s majority in the province the PPP has MQM as a coalition partner in the Province as well as a coalition partner at the federal level. Some political observers may choose to ignore this change, for us democrats it’s a paradigm shift in the political maturity of Pakistan.

The Pakistan Peoples’ Party has been away from populist politics for long now. Z.A.Bhutto used to mesmerize the masses with his moving speeches, often openly challenging his opponents on the international stage. With the Party under Benazir Bhutto, the PPP agenda gradually moved towards more realistic than populist politics. One of the foremost reason being the changing dynamics of the world. Earlier at the time of Chairman Bhutto, USA and USSR were in a head on collision, but the Afghan war of 1980s created a uni-polar world and Pakistan had been a catalyst in it. Our foreign policy shifted from being aggressive and independent, to apologetic and diplomatic.

PPP had a very distinct approach towards matters from the very start, mainly the reason being it was the largest political entity of Pakistan after 1969. More or less, PPP faced coalitions of hard-line Islamists and fundamentalists in elections time and again. Removed from office twice under the influence of military, the PPP was reluctant to join hands and find friends in the political class of Pakistan. It heavily depended upon bringing about a change through vote but failed to realize that Pakistan had changed a great deal. No longer could PPP sway the polls alone and hope for a transformation.

During her years in exile, Benazir Bhutto chalked out a complete agenda to unite the like minded political forces of Pakistan on a single page so as to move towards a democratic Pakistan with a greater might. Another thing she realized was that the PPP needed to befriend the foes so as to block every route to dictatorship in the country. She was absolutely clear about this: Pakistan will have to have coalition governments with everybody’s stake to keep the GHQ at bay from the corridors of power.

For these reasons, the CoD was signed with Mian Nawaz Sharif and Benazir negotiated with the dictator of the time to return to Pakistan and unite the democratic and liberal forces against the extremists who were dreaming a takeover of Pakistan in the fall of 2007. She successfully urged the PML-N to go for elections and joined hands with MQM and ANP. Though Benazir never lived to see the Coalition Government, she was sure the architect of the first ever broad based coalition government in Pakistan since its inception.

Asif  Zardari had a difficult task at hand. Instead of fighting lost battles, he moved forward with the policy of reconciliation and ascended to the President House in no time. Since then, he has been the sole target of many. Not because he is Asif Zardari, but because he represents a ‘Broad Based Coalition Government’ of progressive democratic and liberal political parties of Pakistan. With absolutely no doubt, the NFC and 18th Amendment along with the broadly supported operation in Malakand and Swat are no less than miracles. The genius in Benazir Bhutto got the pulse right.

We believe Altaf Hussain’s recent statement where he stated MQM preference of “Patriotic general over Nizam-Zardaran” says a lot. ANP and PPP allied together because they have realized they can’t survive alone. But it will be unfortunate if MQM is not thinking the same. Hopefully their clarifications will make sense over time.

Earlier this year, President Zardari addressed the PPP workers in Peshawar. One could hear angry workers asking him to quit ANP lead provincial coalition government. He told them you have to understand we can’t leave each other for sake of Khyber-Paktunkhuwa, even if we face unfriendly attitude from ANP in Peshawar. On Bhutto’s birth anniversary he said, “mujhe paata hai aap ka dil abhi MQM sai nai mila”  , he could played cleverly and by skipping this issue  in front of an emotionally charged crowd but he didn’t hesitate.

On the other hand many mainstream political parties of Pakistan have it seems learnt nothing from history. What they need to understand is the old divide and rule game of the non democratic forces operating to topple the civilian elected set up. This time it is not meant for a change of Government but a greater agenda: Fundamentalist Government.

Taking unnecessary criticism and personal attacks head on, Asif Ali Zardari seems to be keenly following up the path Benazir Bhutto defined to once and for all defeat the vultures waiting in hide to subvert the constitution. It took painful years in exile for Benazir Bhutto to chalk out the plan and it took 12 Years of incarceration and solitary confinement for Asif Zardari to carry on with the mission. We must be in no delusion. Perhaps it will take some very bitter lessons to teach Imran Khan and Altaf Hussain the worth of a democratic struggle.

Written by Usama Kabbir and Humza Ikram



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