On this day, 1967 Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto founded the Pakistan People Party and set a new face of democratic front in the political discourse of Pakistan. PPP has witnessed both democratic and military regime control. The hardship and violence that PPP leadership faced during its budding period has given this political party a special place in rural and middle communities. But after losing by a big margin to Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf in 2018, PPP is constantly in hot water for multiple allegations i.e. money laundering, illegal land occupation and offshore accounts.
But where it all began and how PPP evolved during the course of history?
Pakistan People’s Party was founded by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in 1967. PPP had at its core the concepts of socialism and egalitarianism. Zulfikar Bhutto received early support from students – National Students Federation – to form a revolutionary socialist party. With the support of students PPP became an instant hit with the young community. Under Zulfikar Bhutto’s leadership, the party clamped down on General Ayub’s regime, launched protests and forced him to resign in 1969.
Bhutto campaigned vigorously for the election and managed to successfully form a government in 1971. But this victory came at a cost; inception of Bangladesh. Bhutto consolidated political power in his administration of West Pakistan which isolated the people of East Pakistan. It is easy to blame Mujib-Ur-Rehman for the loss but it is not absolutely correct or even factual.
This breakthrough opened gates of opportunities for Z.A Bhutto. From President, he became the Prime Minister in 1973. As promised, Bhutto brought in many reforms in Pakistan’s political and economic sphere. Three major reforms during the PPP regime are still considered massive achievements of political history.
In short the 70s was the golden era for PPP. During that period Zulfikar Bhutto won the heart of Pakistan’s awaam. Many lovingly called him Quaid-i-awaam (people’s leader).
Maintaining the socialist ideology in a religious society with organized hatred towards leftist sentiments is not an easy job. As time progressed PPP became unpopular for its ideology. Internal rifts grew and many members split into other secular parties. The PNA – Pakistan National Alliance — (a coalition of 9 opposition parties) launched a violent protest against the Bhutto regime in 1977. Bhutto won but the election was rejected by the PNA and the opposition fresh polls were called for.
To save the sinking boat of political power Bhutto took few steps i.e.
These acts were precisely done in order to pacify the opposition. But the opposition didn’t stop here; they demanded the imposition of Sharia law in Pakistan. These Islamist sentiment became the driving force behind Bhutto’s political demise.
ZA Bhutto was accused of rigging the 1977 elections. His own handpicked military general Gen Zia ul Haq toppled him in a military coup and took over the regime.
Bhutto was also accused of orchestrating the murder of a political opponent. He was sentenced to death by the Zia regime and hanged to death in 1979 at Rawalpindi. This decision initiated the darkest period of Pakistan’s history.
Bhutto’s own family was denied to attend his funeral by then dictator, Zia Ul Haq. Much of the Muslim world was shocked at Bhutto’s execution and condemned it.
Bhutto’s last words were, “Oh Lord, help me for… I am innocent”.
Bhutto’s daughter, Benazir, was kept in jail and then under house arrest after Bhutto’s execution. She took over PPP in the year 1978 but was in and out of jail until she was exiled to Europe. Most of PPP’s top leadership was in jail around this time.
With Benazir coming to the forefront, PPP resumed its radical left stance. She returned with full vigour and led the 1988 elections PPP won and formed the government.
Meanwhile, Gen Zia died in a plane crash the same year.
Benazir was sworn in as the Prime Minister in December 1988. President Ghulam Ishaq Khan dismissed her government in 1990 on corruption charges and over deteriorating law and order in the country. She lost the 1990 elections to Nawaz Sharif (PML-N) but came to power again in 1993.
PPP’s ideology became more centrist in nature. Bhutto embraced privatization but retained the party’s original populist stance. Bhutto’s regime was dismissed for the second time. Nawaz Sharif took over but was toppled by Military chief General Pervez Musharraf in 1999. Sharif and Benazir both were exiled from Pakistan. Both returned to Pakistan in the year 2007 and decided to become allies and contest the 2008 elections.
Benazir had now moulded the party into a left-liberal outfit. Musharraf’s regime had become extremely unpopular due to growing incidents of extremism and terrorism.
Benazir’s homecoming rally was targeted but she survived the attack. She was assassinated during a rally in Rawalpindi on December 27, 2007. Pakistan broke into riots and violent protests unrest prevailed for weeks.
PPP won the 2008 elections. Benazir’s husband, Asif Ali Zardari, took over as party’s new chairman. Yousaf Raza Gilani was sworn in as the Prime Minister. Benazir’s son, Bilawal Bhutto was named PPP’s co-chairperson in 2007 he assumed office on December 30, 2007
Pakistan’s economy nosedived as PPP grappled with growing extremism, terrorism, and internal issues. The party lost the 2013 elections to Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz).
Bilawal Bhutto was elevated as PPP’s chairman in 2015. Under Bilawal’s absolute command, PPP witnessed widespread changes in its original fabric.
But the PPP real struggle began after the 2018 election when In a press conference held at Insaf House, Khurram Sher Zaman exposed a corruption scandal where Rs 33 billion of taxpayer’s money was looted by the PPP administration over installation of R.O Plants.”
This initiated a series of illegal projects exposé by PTI government against PPP leadership. Eventually Asif Zardari left the country for medical purposes. Bilawal Bhutto is now leading the political dynasty whose image is extremely tarnished among the common public.
We can’t be sure when this political party or dynasty will outgrow its corrupt culture of nepotism and opportunism but in retrospect PPP always found a way to bounce in mainstream discourse so there’s some subjective hope but not any objective plan for now.