Party’s leadership and workers rendered lots of sacrifices for democracy since its inception.
Dr. Abdul Razak Shaikh
The workers of Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) are celebrating the 55th Foundation Day of the party today, as it was launched at a convention held in Lahore on November 30, 1967, where Shaheed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was elected as the chairman.
Since its formation in 1967, the PPP has been voted to power on five separate occasions – 1970, 1977, 1988, 1993, and 2008. In present setup also, it is coalition partner of PML-N.
The PPP dominated the politics of the country in the 1970s and sacrificed a lot for the cause of democracy during the martial law of dictator Zia-ul-Huq.
Among the expressed goals of the party were the establishment of egalitarian society and the application of socialistic ideas to realize economic and social justice.
Shaheed Bhutto launched the party after the Tashkent Declaration, when the confrontation between Ayub Khan and him started and finally Bhutto had resigned from the office of Foreign Minister.
In 1968, Bhutto launched a mass contact movement of the party, beginning with Punjab. Bhutto’s program directly targeted the country’s poverty-stricken masses. The left-wing-oriented slogan, “Land to the Landless,” proved to be irresistible to the peasants and labor force, as the party promised not only to abolish the feudalism that had plagued the country but also to redistribute lands amongst the landless peasants.
The working class quickly flocked to the party, believing it to be a party dedicated to the getting rid of capitalism in the country. Young university students and teachers, who had often borne the brunt of Ayub Khan’s dictatorial regime during his decade-long rule, were promised a better future with better educational and career opportunities. The party’s manifesto also attracted the country’s numerous minorities, who quickly joined the party. The continuous contentions and pressure forced Ayub Khan to resign from the presidency in 1969, leading to the imposition of another Martial Law by Army Commander General Yahya Khan with promise of holding elections in two years.
During this time, the PPP intensified its support in West Pakistan, organizing itself and gaining support from poor masses.
As a result of Pakistan’s defeat by India in the Indo-Pakistan War of 1971, General Yahya Khan was forced to resign. On December 20, 1971, Bhutto took the oath as President. By the time Bhutto had assumed control of what remained of Pakistan, the nation was completely isolated and demoralized.
Bhutto vowed to build a new Pakistan. On January 2, 1972, Bhutto announced the nationalization of all major industries. He successfully negotiated the return of 93,000 prisoners of war and a settlement with India.
The National Assembly approved the Constitution of Pakistan on April 10, 1973, and it came into effect on August 14, 1973, and the same day Bhutto took oath as the Prime Minister of Pakistan.
In 1977, a general election was held in which PPP secured a majority vote. However, the PNA-led opposition started agitation against the PPP government alleging the rigging in elections. At the peak of the movement, Bhutto offered to hold elections in November 1977 and ministries to PNA. Tension, however, continued to mount. Despite an agreement reached between the opposition and PPP, martial law was imposed in the country by the then Chief of Army Staff, General Zia-ul-Huq.
On April 4, 1979, after a controversial trial and court verdict in an alleged murder case of a political opponent, Bhutto was executed.
In 1982, Benazir Bhutto was elected as the party chairperson. The PPP started the Movement for Restoration of Democracy, which was one of the greatest democratic movements in the world against the ruthless dictatorship of General Zia-ul-Haq.
After 12 long years, the PPP returned to power by winning the general elections in 1988 with Benazir Bhutto becoming the first female Prime Minister of a Muslim country. In 1990, the PPP government was dismissed. It later returned to power in the general elections in 1993 with Bhuttoism becoming the most influential and powerful slogan.
PPP’s next government was again dismissed but this time by the party’s own appointed President Farooq Leghari, in September 1996.
After the assassination of Benazir Bhutto on December 27, 2007, the parliamentary elections were held on February 18, 2008. The PPP won a considerable victory among all political parties. On March 28, 2008, the party appointed Yousaf Raza Gillani to the office of the Prime Minister. Later, Mr. Asif Ali Zardari was elected as the President of Pakistan. He surrendered all powers for the cause of democracy through the 18th Amendment.
Though PPP lost major province – Punjab in the 2013 and 2018 elections, it still has a basic organization in every corner of the country.
The PPP’s leadership and workers must look retrospectively into what they need to do to further strengthen the party in the whole of Pakistan. It must be in a position where Shaheed Z. A. Bhutto and Shaheed Benazir Bhutto made the party powerful. There remains a perception that a strong political future awaits the PPP.
Bhutto had laid the foundation of true democracy, for which he had to pay a very heavy price.
This year party is celebrating Foundation Day at district level and the main public meeting will be held at Nishtar Park Karachi. PPP is a symbol of the federation and that must be kept near for the Federation.
Dr. Abdul Razak Shaikh, MBBS, Masters in Health Services Management, is the retired Health Department official of Sindh government and a freelance writer. He is President People’s Doctors’ Forum Sindh.