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Spotlight: PPP: party with a following but no leaders!: Tattered political parties are a bad omen for democracy!

PPP never had an heir apparent for top leadership. None would be tolerated. Both Zulfiqar Bhutto and Benazir made that clear as soon as someone in the party appeared to be growing too big for his boots or otherwise found fault with the boss on any issue or started to build up a following of his own not owed to the party boss. There was zero tolerance for dissent leave alone defiance. To quote just one example, one recalls how J. A. Raheem, a senior career diplomat and “the brain behind Bhutto’s party ideology”, was treated by his party leader. He was Minister of Production at the time.

“THE RAJA OF LARKANA” At a dinner party hosted by Bhutto where JAR was a guest Bhutto kept every one waiting. JAR left the party and went home but not before giving vent to his annoyance by calling Bhutto “the Raja of Larkana who had turned Pakistan into a ‘rajwada'”. This was duly reported to Bhutto who not only dismissed JAR then and there but in a ghastly sequel JAR was dragged out from his bedroom, feet first, out of his house and subjected to torture and had to be taken to a hospital. Another example when Benazir was party leader, was the way Aitzaz Ahsan was reportedly ignored by her in party matters and meetings and generally kept out of the loop at a time when AA was riding a wave of popularity leading the movement for restoration of Judiciary under CJP Iftikhar Chaudhry. Only “reflected glory” was tolerable!

NO WONDER PPP IS LEADERLESS A number of PPP leaders are now making a great show of taking on the Judiciary on principles! Where was their sense of right and wrong over the last five years when the government was scaling new heights of corruption, misrule and protection of the corrupt? Why could not they work up the courage to struggle or at least to strongly protest against the unprecedented corruption? Let us face it: PPP still has a large following but no leaders.

MUSLIM LEAGUE UNDER NAWAZ Let me go back a few decades and recall the advice reportedly given by Qazi Hussain Ahmed then Amir JI to Nawaz Sharif on the latter’s assuming office as Prime Minister. The two parties were at the time close together albeit for a brief period. The advice to the PM was to put his entire business into a trust and thus dissociate himself from its operational direction and activities. The advice, for what it was worth, was supposed to reduce the possibility of undue favour by the government to his business affairs or suspicions on that score. The crux of the matter is that a head of government having a large business empire to look after cannot do justice to his role in the service of the country and its people.

REDUCED TO PROVINCIAL STATUS No wonder therefore that under Nawaz, PML has been reduced to a single-province party. Even in Punjab though it obtained an overwhelming majority in terms of Assembly seats, in terms of popular vote its show was not as impressive as PPP and Tehrik-e-Insaf also ended up with huge chunks of popular vote not directly reflected in the number of seats won. Take a measure of the days spent by Nawaz in Sindh, KP and Balochistan over the last five years and you will awaken to the fact that the PML case was lost by default. Apart from lack of political focus Nawaz’s style of politics also suffers from preference for placing relatives (care to take a quick count?) and cronies (also?) in positions of power. Some recent appointments and resignation (effective or imminent) at the behest of Judiciary are pointers to this.

DID SPOTLIGHT FLIP/FLOP? In these columns we have been welcoming the change from Zardari to Nawaz while also expressing certain reservations. So some readers may be wondering if we have flip/flopped in the matter as well like Nawaz keeps doing. The fact of the matter is that after Zardari’s disastrous years, any change however dubious was welcome and that was the note we sounded!

TEHRIK-E-INSAF Tehrik-e-Insaf has not been able to put its acts together in nearly three months since the elections. Quibbling with award of election tickets for a start followed by a prominent spokesperson attacking the leader’s policies and jumping ship (now back on board apparently), followed again by the leader’s unfortunate accident have all taken their toll. Yet another crisis arose over high appointees to KP government displaying defiance on being asked to resign from party offices. As if all this was not bad enough party chief Imran running afoul of the Judiciary is another matter the Tehrik has to extricate itself from. Let us give the party and its leader six months in government in KP and opposition in the Parliament to form a firmer assessment about the party’s prospects.

CHOICE BEFORE MQM The desperate need to avoid boycott of the whole Sindh Assembly forced PML-N to resort to the mother of all flip/flops and visit MQM’s headquarters at 90, hat in hand. Remember how Fazlur Rahman had hoodwinked his allies in MMA by delaying resignation of NWFP CM (who belonged to JUI-F) to a point that Musharraf was elected President before the dissolution of the Assembly could take effect? PML-N precluded that possibility by (swallowing for now what all it had said about MQM in the past) roping in MQM and ensuring participation of the Sindh Assembly in the Presidential election. TV Channels took great pleasure in digging up archives and re-screening videos of things said by the chiefs of the two parties against each other over the years. What did MQM gain by coming to the rescue of their erstwhile enemy? Reeling from the investigations against the party chief in London on three counts, discomfiture of its spokesmen in TV discussions on how to explain away statements attributed to their chief, still nor able to make public the results of the much publicised party Referendum and still not being accommodated by old ally PPP in respect of devolution of power in Karachi, MQM badly needed support from any quarter and reciprocated PML-N’s overtures. Let us wait six months and see who gained or lost from the deal and how much?


Wajid Naeemuddin, "Spotlight: PPP: party with a following but no leaders!: Tattered political parties are a bad omen for democracy!," Business recorder. 2013-08-06.
Keywords: Political science , Political parties , Political leaders , Political system , Political issues , Politicians , Politics-Pakistan , Corruption , Pakistan , PMLN , MQM , TIP