What is in store for PPP?


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There are people who build and there are those who destroy. Founder of the Pakistan People s Party Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto built one of the country s largest political parties out of nothing; his daughter kept the party strong in the face of extraordinary challenges; its present inheritor is busy destroying it bit by bit.

Most of the capable party loyalists have been sidelined or shown the door; nincompoops whose only qualification is personal loyalty to the party co-Chairperson are in charge. They occupy top party positions, and get bestowed with highest national honours - thus far reserved for people rendering outstanding public service in various fields of national endeavour. It does not seem to matter what the people think of the goings-on.

The leader and his close associates harebrained schemes and horrendous acts of omission and commission have brought the PPP to the point where disintegration is within the realm of possibility. Bad governance is the hallmark of this government.

The so-called policy of reconciliation the leadership has been pursuing with great devotion to stay in power rather than to work towards rebuilding the badly bruised economy and state institutions, threatens to be the cause of the party s own undoing. So far its strongest asset has been the mandate the people of Sindh gave it. It has managed to earn the ire of the Sindhi people as well.

The manner in which the government first triumphantly announced the restoration of the old commissionerte system, only to retract later under the MQM pressure, bringing back both the local bodies system in MQM dominated urban areas and commissionerate in rural Sindh, has proven to be the proverbial last straw on the camel s back.

Most Sindhis, including the PPP s old stalwarts, already disapproving of the party policy vis--vis the Karachi situation, are livid with anger over the handling of the LB/commissionerate issue. They see the move as administrative division of Sindh along ethnic lines. Although the government has since withdrawn that decision as well, ordering revival of the LB system all over the province, the damage has been done.

In any case, the LB system is unacceptable to most Sindhis. The issue has created so much resentment that prominent party leaders like Zafar Ali Shah, Yousuf Talpur, Nabil Gabol, and Taj Haider have come out in the open to register their rejection. And in a further show of displeasure over the handling by the President s men of the LB/commissionerate issue as well as the situation in Karachi, many have openly demanded that Rehman Malik and Babar Awan stay away from Sindh.

Even a bigger challenge has been thrown the PPP s way by Sindhi nationalist parties/groups, including Awami Tehrik, Jeay Sindh Tehrik, Jeay Sindh Qaumi Mahaz, Sindh United Party, Sindh Taraqi Passand Party, Sindh United Party, and Sindh National Front. Getting together last week under the umbrella of Sindh Bachayo (save Sindh) Committee, they gave a province-wide strike call for Saturday to protest what they viewed as a move to placate the MQM at the expense of native Sindhis.

The PML-N, ANP, and Tehrik-i-Insaaf supported the strike call, which elicited an overwhelming response not only in rural Sindh but also in Karachi, Hyderabad and Sukkur. Media reports described the protest strike as historic. Also not to be ignored was the spectacle of demonstrators burning effigies of the party co-chairman s confidants, Rehman Malik and Babar Awan.

Fear factor, of course, is always at play during protest action. Shops are shutdown, transport goes off roads, and people try to avoid going out to keep away from trouble, not necessarily to show support to one or the other side. However, in this case, it was the protesters who came under grenade and gunfire attacks in Karachi and Hyderabad. Armed men tried to force shop owners to remain open, and poured super glue in the shuttered down businesses locks. Still, the shutdown was complete. By the end of it all eight people, mostly protesters, lay dead.

These events show two things: one, that the MQM by insisting on a move unpopular in the rest of the province has weakened its own position; its nuisance value also stands challenged by the nationalists in their newly proven ability to impose a shutdown in big cities. Second, the PPP so far pursuing the when in trouble take out the Sindh card policy can no longer rely on exploiting Sindhi sentiments. It has suffered a severe setback in its home base of Sindh. In short, both the PPP and the MQM are the losers, and the gainer a third force, which is yet to find form.

Considering that so far the PPP s way of dealing with dissenters has been to oust them from party positions, even stripping some senior leaders of basic membership, it can be presumed that those who voiced resentment over the present issue took a well considered risk. They are not going to quit politics. In fact, they might already be eyeing other possibilities. Those interested in high offices at the Centre will look for national level parties with strong chances of success in the next elections - like the grandson of Pir of Pigara who recently joined the Nawaz League.

The nationalists, usually seen as a marginalized minority in the province, have new-found confidence in their power to pursue their agendas. The ANP, already embroiled in a fierce turf battle with the MQM in Karachi, may also be rethinking its future course of action. The two mainstream parties, the Nawaz League and TI, must be the happiest to see the PPP inflict self-harm. Eager to make inroads in Sindhi politics, they would want to woo the disaffected groups and form alliances with them.

Unless something dramatic happens that saves the party from its leader s single-minded pursuit of self-interest and the follies of his bungling cronies, which is unlikely, it will remain on course to disintegration. We can expect to witness new alliances emerging in Sindh to change the political landscape. It would not be surprising if the PPP we have been so used to seeing as a major player for decades becomes a minnow at the next general elections.

Courtesy: Business Recorder