The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) faces the worst crisis of its life as it celebrated its golden jubilee on December 5. Tainted by corruption of its leaders, deviating from its manifesto of the provision of basic rights to the people of Pakistan and acting as a “friendly opposition” to the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) have pushed it to the brink of history’s dust bin.
The oldest party of Pakistan has already been wiped out from the Punjab in the last election and was confined to rural areas of its home province, where it faces a tough contest from an alliance of 23 political parties under the umbrella of the Pakistan Awami Itehad (PAI), led by former President Pervez Musharraf. In urban areas, it has remote chances of any success against a possible alliance of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) and the Pakistan Sarzameen Party (PSP) and the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI). It may not be able to form the government in Sindh in the next election. If it wins more than five seats in the Punjab, it will be a huge achievement.
Addressing a golden jubilee function at a public meeting in Islamabad, PPP Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto Zardari promised his party would restore the state’s writ after coming to power in the next election. Citing a sit-in of religious parties in the capital, he said the PPP would not let society move towards extremism. He said he would advance former Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s legacy, who had founded the party on November 30, 1967, to make Pakistan a true social- democratic state. His father and former President Asif Ali Zardari said his party had saved former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s government twice but would not help him again. He also expressed his optimism that the party would come to power through the power of the vote again in the 2018 election. His high hopes come at a time when there are reports of reopening of corruption and other cases against him and his sister, Faryal Talpur. It is said the PPP leadership contacted the establishment indirectly for reprieve to them but it was informed that the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) is an independent organization and no hindrance will be created or tolerated if it opens cases against corrupt politicians under its new chairman.
There were reports of former Sindh Minister Sharjeel Memon turning an approver against former President Asif Zardari when he returned to Pakistan to face Rs6b corruption cases against him a few months ago. The PPP government is supporting him and he appears to be satisfied with his legal defence, but he still can turn hostile when he will find himself in trouble. A confessional statement of Lyari gang war criminal Uzair Baloch before a judicial magistrate could also land the widower of the slain Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto in trouble. In his confessional statement, Baloch said that he had forcibly vacated 30 to 40 bungalows and apartments near Bilawal House in Karachi for him. He also helped Zardari and his close aide Awais Muzaffar Tappi in occupying 14 sugar mills in Sindh. In his shocking revelations, he said the bounty on his head and criminal cases against him had been dropped after the intervention of Asif Zardari and his sister. In another shocking disclosure, he said he had leaked “sensitive information” to foreign agencies. He also admitted his role in the appointment of Saeed Baloch and Nisar Morai in the Fishermen Cooperative Society, which paid Rs2 million extortion to him monthly. He used his political connections for the appointment of police officers who helped him in his criminal activities. He said he would use former Sindh Home Minister Zulfiqar Mirza, Qadir Patel and Yousuf Baloch for the appointment of his choice police officers.
The National Accountability Bureau (NAB), under its new chairman, has started investigations against the accused, who were named in the Panama leaks, hold Swiss accounts, purchased properties in the UAE and the UK, including the Surrey Palace. According to sources, investigations against three Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) ministers are in the final stages and they could be arrested in a few weeks. Asif Zardari and other PPP leaders have already started feeling the heat. Allegations of corruption and siding with the PML-N have brought the party to the brink. However, he is still not willing to hand over the command to his son, who is fresh in politics and has a clean image, despite being inexperienced and unaware of the ground realities in Pakistan. Almost all top leaders of the party in the Punjab have joined the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) in the last few years and many more are ready to defect to Imran Khan’s party before the next election. It appears the PPP will not even be able to find candidates in the Punjab for the next election because of its policy of being a toothless opposition and acting as a B-team to the government. Several parliamentarians, who failed to win assembly seats in the last general election, accused the party leadership of ignoring them due to their failure in the elections while they faced alleged victimization at the hands of the ruling party in the province.
Besides internal rifts, the party faces the biggest challenge to its existence from the PTI. Instead of the PPP, the PTI is seriously challenging the MQM in Karachi and the PML-N in the Punjab. The last few years saw a steep rise in the popularity of the PTI for highlighting the failures of the PPP government in Sindh and the PML-N governments at the Centre and the Punjab. The PPP launched Bilawal Bhutto Zardari to revive its fortunes after a heavy drubbing in the last general election. He started his campaign with fiery speeches and bitter criticism of the MQM and the PML-N. However, he failed to click because his party had made a bad bargain to support former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in exchange for his backing for PPP governments in the Sindh, Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan assemblies.
The PPP faces the toughest time of its history as the PTI threatens to eliminate it in many areas, even its strongholds in interior Sindh and south Punjab. Its survival becomes even more difficult as Sindh still remains one of the most poorly governed provinces of Pakistan after the worst governance of its last government at the Centre and Sindh. At 50, the party appears to have completed its lifespan and utility. Three generations have passed since its creation. Allegations of corruption and bad governance will adhere even if a new and clean leadership takes it over. Three more generations are needed for its revival when its slate will be cleansed, always assuming that the party undertakes a serious exercise in self reform.