Ayub Khan lost at the negotiation table at Tashkent the war that was won by the Pakistan army supported by the people of Pakistan in 1965. This humiliation enraged the people of Pakistan against the dictator. Mr. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, a patriot as he has always been, was left with no choice but to quit the Ayub Government on June 16, 1966. Bhutto was determined to bring down the dictator who had betrayed the nation.
To achieve this goal, he needed a political organization and a political platform. He waited for more than a year before he found both; like so many aggrieved politicians before him, he chose to found his own political party.
The PPP was launched at its founding convention held in Lahore on November 30 – December 01, 1967. At the same meeting, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was elected as its Chairman. Among the express goals for which the party was formed were the establishment of an “egalitarian democracy” and the “application of socialistic ideas to realize economic and social justice”. A more immediate task was to struggle against the hated dictatorship of Ayub Khan,who was at the height of his power when the PPP was formed. Basic principles of PPP enshrined:
Islam is our Faith
Democracy is our politics
Socialism is our Economy
All Power to the People
The Party also promised the elimination of feudalism in accordance with the established principles of socialism to protect and advance the interests of peasantry.
Immediately after its formation, the PPP spread its message among the workers, peasants and students throughout Pakistan, who greeted it enthusiastically. While it was still in this process, a mass uprising broke out against Ayub Khan’s dictatorship and the PPP quickly moved to play a leading role in this movement. After Ayub resigned in March 1969, an interim military government took over and announced elections for December 1970. The PPP contested these elections on the slogans of “ROTI, KAPRA AUR MAKAN” (bread, clothing and shelter) and “all power to the people.”
The masses responded heavily to it in the polls, where PPP won 81 of 138 seats allocated to West Pakistan in the National Assembly (a total of 300 seats were contested for in both wings of the country ), coming in as the second largest party after East Pakistan – based Awami League. At the provincial level, it won majority in Sindh and Punjab legislatures.
There were not enough means and time to organize and carry the message of PPP to East Pakistan. The PPP, therefore, confined its election activities to West Pakistan and fielded its candidates in that wing.
When Army rulers refused to transfer power to Awami League, which had won an absolute majority in the national legislature, a bloody civil war broke out in East Pakistan leading to Indian Military intervention defeating Pakistani Army. The humiliated army Generals had to step down. Mr. Bhutto took over as Chief Martial Law Administrator and President. Martial Law was lifted on the following April when interim constitution was passed by the National Assembly within a short span of four months after assuming office.
During its Government from Dec. 20, 1971 to July 5,1977, the PPP government made significant social and economic reforms that did much to improve the life of Pakistan’s impoverished masses. It also gave the country a new Constitution and took many other steps to promote country’s economic and political recovery after the disastrous years of military rule. PPP remained the only concrete hope for a better future of the poor masses. When elections were called by Mr. Bhutto for March 1977 nine opposition parities gathered together to pool their strength and formed Pakistan National Alliance (PNA). Although this alliance had several important centrist parties as its members, it was heavily dominated by the right – wing religious parties such as the fanatical Jamaat-I-Islami. This gave its election campaign a fundamentalist coloring expressed through the slogan for ” Nizam-I-Mustafa” (Islamic system). PPP promised in its 1977 manifesto the consolidation of its achievements made during the first term. PNA, because of its obscurantism, failed to attract the broad masses. All independent estimates predicated a PPP victory in March.
However, when the election produced this victory, returning 155 PPP. candidates to the 200 members National Assembly as opposed to only 36 PNA candidates (the 7 seats from Bluchistan were not contested by the PNA), the PNA did not accept the results. (Indeed, in the face of all predictions, it had said before the elections that it would accept nothing but an outright victory for itself). Charging rigging and fraud, it unleashed its campaign of violence and openly called for the military to take over the government. Despite government’s offers for compromise and a settlement for fresh general elections having been arrived at between the Government and the opposition, the PNA movement did not let up until the military led by General Zia-ul-Haq staged a coup d’etat and seized power on July 5,1977.
Bhutto was symbol of Reform and Reconstruction. Bhutto master minded Pakistan’s first Steel Mill, a second Port and commissioned Pakistan’s first hydro electric dam on the mighty Indus at Tarbela. He made Pakistan self sufficient in the filed of fertilizers, sugar, and cement. He nationalized Banks and Life Insurance Companies, he also initiated Pakistan’s Nuclear Programme.
1972 Land Reforms slashed the individual holding to 150 acres of irrigated or 300 acres of un-irrigated land. In 1977 the ceiling was further reduced to 100 acres of irrigated and 200 acres of un-irrigated land.
The Islamic Summit was held in Lahore attended by all the heads of Muslim states. Thus making Pakistan a center of Islamic Unity. To his credit are the Electrical Mechanical Complex at Wah, The Aeronautic Complex at Kamrah, The Kahuta Project for Nuclear Bomb. He made education upto Matric free, provided books free to the students, provided allowances to unemployed graduates and two increments to Science Graduates in their salaries, thousands of Government employees who were not confirmed for over 5 to 15 years were confirmed in their jobs. The system of part time government employees was changed to whole time government employees. First May was declared public holiday.
The economical policies of Z.A. Bhutto were anti-imperialist based on state socialism following the mould of other Third World leaders such as Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt, Ahmad Soekarno of Indonesia, and his own contemporary Salvador Allende of Chile who was elected, over thrown and assassinated during the same period. The Neo-Colonialists made a “horrible example” of Bhutto for his anti-Imperialistic stance, his efforts to unite Islamic World, and his demarche towards bringing Third World on one Platform apart from the Nuclear issue.
Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was a man of multidimensional qualities. He was a political philosopher and at the same time implemented his political philosophy.
He master minded a political party and made it a mass movement. He was an articulate mass orator and a superb diplomat. Taking the country out of chaos he was the driving force to effectively establish an organized government machinery. He was never vindictive. He faced death bravely.
Immediately following the coup, the Martial Law regime let loose a baseless campaign against the PPP and its leaders. Mr. Bhutto was framed on a murder-conspiracy charge and executed, rather judicially assassinated-on April 4, 1979. While leading a procession in Lahore the police hit Begum Bhutto on her head who had been elected the Acting Chairperson of the Party following the arrest of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto in September,1977. Benazir Bhutto who was elected as Co-Chairperson of the party, following the disqualification of Begum Nusrat Bhutto, in February,1978 suffered impairment in hearing during incarceration.
Hundreds of party workers were put to death. Thousands were lashed and tens of thousand suffered long imprisonments and detention in jails and torture cells. Even women were not spared. Not a single PPP. worker betrayed the party despite temptations by Martial Law Authorities.
Despite inexplicable repression, PPP. survived and indeed, gained in strength. Its own activists reaffirmed their resolve to fight against the criminal dictatorship. Segments of masses which had become alienated from it, now rallied to its support. The progressive forces outside the PPP. began to cooperate with it. The leadership of the party was in the hands of Mrs. Nusrat Bhutto and Benazir Bhutto-Bhutto’s widow and daughter respectively who gave it a renewed sense of radicalism. The PPP. accepted the challenge of General Zia when Ms. Benazir Bhutto commanded the party workers and supporters that party would fight on all fronts – at the polls as well as in the field demonstrations, public meetings and protests. So the party participated in the non-party local bodies elections. It swept the polls throughout the country from Karachi to Khyber, the urban as well as rural areas, and washed away the impression that PPP. has lost its popularity or mobilization capacity. It paved the way for the political parties to unite.
The proof of the party’s centrality to the politics of Pakistan came when nine political parties, including some which had helped in its overthrow as member of the PNA, united with it in the Movement for the Restoration of Democracy (MRD). In its first statement issued in February, 1981, the movement demanded the holding of “free, fair, and impartial election”. When the government failed to oblige, the MRD, in the summer of 1983, brought out its followers to confront the military in the streets of Sindh.
Benazir Bhutto rescued and rebuilt the party from scratch, leading an epic movement for the restoration of Democracy, her historical welcome in Lahore on 10th 1986 was the turn of the tide. In the meantime Zia was digging his own grave. He dismissed his hand picked protege Muhammad Khan Jonejo and dissolved the National Assembly of Pakistan on May 29, 1988. A few days before his death, while revealing his plans for a presidential system, he told a confidante “I will be around a long time”. Fate intervened on l7th August, 1988 when the C-130, carrying him crashed in a ball of fire and Zia went from ashes to ashes and his system from dust to dust.
Public funds running over tens of crores and govt. resources were made available to political parties and individual leaders opposing Pakistan People’s Party by the establishment to bar the way of success of PPP. at the polls.
General Zia-ul-Haq’s death in August, 1988, changed the scene. While Zia’s supporters were in total disarray following his death. The PPP under Benazir Bhutto’s dynamic leadership quickly mobilized public support. A number of politicians who supported Zia vied to join PPP. Despite the factors stated above the party did well in the election of November, 1988 but it was not able to repeat the performance of 1970. It emerged as single largest party in the National Assembly with 92 of the 207 seats contested in the elections. It was able to secure majority only in one province: Sindh. It was only with the support of the MQM and some small parties that it was able to form a government at the Center with Benazir Bhutto as Prime Minister, the first women in modern history to head a government of a Muslim country. She was not allowed to work independently and her government was dismissed by President Ghulam Ishaque on August 6, 1990. She had to work under the constant shadow of President Ghulam Ishaq Khan.
In the general elections held on 24 October, 1990, the Pakistan People’s Party suffered defeat due to massive rigging. The party had formed an electoral alliance with the Tehrik-e-Istiqlal and Tehrik-e-Nafaz Fiqh Jafria (TNFJ), under the name of Pakistan Democratic Alliance (PDA) The PPP won 46 of 107 national assembly seats contested by it. Islamic Jamhoori Itehad (IJI) led by Mian Muhainmad Nawaz Sharif won with majority.
PPP allegations were confirmed by Ghulam Mustafa Jatoi, the caretaker Prime Minister in 1990 that the elections were stolen and had been rigged. In Sindh a reign of terror was let loose. So much so that Asif Ali Zardari was involved in 12 criminal cases including a case of murder of 5 persons. Despite Jam Sadiq and Muzaffar’s personal supervision he was acquitted in all the cases,. Jam Sadiq said had I been instructed by the President I would have managed to defeat Benazir.
After the dismissal of Nawaz Sharif’s Government in 1973, Benazir Bhutto returned to office, following long March on Nov. 18, 1992 when Benazir Bhutto was baton charged and arrested. Many PPP. leaders and workers were beaten and arrested by Sharif Government. Benazir Bhutto once again returned to the office of Prime Minister.Benazir Bhutto had redefined the Party programme at the Silver Jubilee of the Party at Lahore in November, 1992. The New Social contract envisaged a social market economy, Privatization of the means of production, downsizing of the government, devolution of power and decentralization to the level of Local Government. So Benazir Bhutto’s government was dismissed for the second time on November 5,1996 by her hand picked President Farooq Leghari, who betrayed her as General Zia-ul-Haq had betrayed her father. In the aftermath of the 1997, engineered elections, Pakistan fell into the grip of a civilian dictatorship and the Muslim League into the clutches of Sharif family. Sharif’s, a protege of Zia, amended the constitution. Taking advantage of the nuclear tests of May 28, the government proclaimed an Emergency which enabled the Federal government to impose a unitary form of Government by arrogating powers of provincial governments to itself. In the province of Sindh, the country’s second largest Province, where the Muslim League was a Minority party with less than a fifth of the seats in the Provincial Assembly maneuvered to form government. A similar threat loomed large on the North West Frontier Province where the Muslim League minority Government had parted ways with the traditionally strong Awami National Party. The government of the Baluchistan National Party led by Akhtar Mengal was over thrown. In a bid to concentrate powers in their family, the Sharif brothers maneuvered the passage of the Shariat Bill i.e. the l5th Amendment (AC 15) in the National Assembly which was however stalled in the Senate.
Benazir Bhutto is in forced exile these days and her husband Asif Ali Zardari is in jail since November, 1996 facing bravely a number of cases engineered by Sharif Govt. as process of victimization, spurred by political vendetta.General Pervaiz Musharraf took over on Oct. 12, 1999 by removing corrupt and inept Government of Nawaz Sharif. In reply to a petition by Nawaz Sharif in the Supreme Court of Pakistan challenging Army’s action of Oct. 12, 1999, the present regime stated that 1997 election were manipulated by Muslim League, thus vindicating the specific allegation by PPP. Today almost all political parties and leaders including some Nawaz Sharif Muslim Leaguers are anxiously awaiting a move by Ms. Benazir Bhutto and PPP. for the restoration of democracy. It is Benazir Bhutto and PPP who can put the economy and social and organizational structure of Pakistan on rail again and ensure masses food, shelter, education and health care and open avenues for job opportunities to the young men of Pakistan. She will choose her own timing for forcing the Military Junta to retreat and hand over power back to the people of Pakistan.