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Friday, December 8, 2023

How can PML-N call itself a democratic party?

A genuine political party relies on the support of the masses, while an establishment creation like the PML-N scrambles for power grab by manipulating the electoral process which is the anti-thesis of their recent slogan, ‘Vote ki Izzat‘.

In a recent BBC interview when Ishaq Dar was confronted with the fact that his leader Mian Nawaz Sharif was himself a protégé of General Ziaul Haq, but now he is complaining of Military interference in politics, prompt came the reply, “It was democratic evolution.” The Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz), like many predecessor ‘King’s Parties’ was launched from the ‘Freemasons Lodge of Democracy’ located at 33 Davis Road Lahore.

With no political background or experience and very ordinary academic credentials, Mian Nawaz Sharif was discovered by the then Martial Law Governor, Lt Gen Ghulam Jillani Khan. He was first inducted as Finance Minister in the Punjab Cabinet, followed by becoming Chief Minister under Prime Minister Muhammad Khan Junejo. I had the chance of asking Jillani Sahib about the credentials of Mian Sahib, his answer was, good people skills or in other words ‘Mukmuka’.

While Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, who now heads PML (Q) believes in ‘Mitti Pao‘ (pour dust), so both of them reached the top leadership positions with the support of the establishment. Perhaps they were the worst possible candidates for this coveted slot. Evolution never touched them, it was the opportunity that they were able to cash in and build their financial empires with the help of political power.

Read more: After Ertugrul, PML-N likens Maryam Nawaz to Princess Diana

Democratic evolution of ZAB

Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto (ZAB) belonged to a prominent political family of Sindh. After completing his studies in the top educational institutions in the United Kingdom and the US he returned to Pakistan to start a career in teaching at a law college in Karachi. He was picked up by President Iskander Mirza as a member of his cabinet. There was no looking back, and President Ayub Khan continued with him till his falling out with the President over the Tashkent Peace Accord in 1965. In November 1967 he founded his political party by the name of Pakistan People’s Party (PPP). Till then most parties were launched by the establishment.

On November 30 that year when I arrived at the YMCA Hall on the Mall for my daily badminton practice, I witnessed unusual activity there. On inquiry, I came to know that Bhutto was coming to address the people. With my racket in hand, I was able to make my way through the crowd. A young and dashing ZAB came on the stage, immaculately dressed in a double breasted suit while the crowd was charged. he asked ‘Awami or Sarkari’? ‘ Awami’ was the unanimous chant. He announced the start of his political struggle on a progressive platform of ‘Islamic Socialism’. Perhaps the concept came from Dr Khalifa Abdul Hakim’s book, Islam and Communism that was published in the early 1960s by the Institute of Islamic Culture, Lahore.

This started the democratic evolution of ZAB. The next round of resistance came with a jalsa (public meeting) at Nasir Bagh (Gol Bagh then) which was not too far away from the YMCA Hall. The administrative machinery under the much feared Governor of West Pakistan, Nawab Amir Muhammad Khan of Kalabagh, had planned to disrupt the gathering and arrest the leader. The ground was watered together with having live electric wires thrown there. ZAB started to speak, but as he touched the mike he was electrocuted and fell on the stage. People ran for safety, and in the prevailing confusion before the agency men could grab him, but Roshan Ali, a rickshaw driver, picked up his leader and escaped. The only light he could see was on the campus of Government College, so he drove inside and landed at the Principal’s residence. Professor Muhammad Rashid was not at home, and while ZAB lay on the sofa of his living room the family called him. By the time he arrived, ZAB had gained consciousness, Roshan Ali drove his leader to safety from the back gate of the College.

There were several such episodes in which the Ayub-led establishment came down heavily but the movement kept gaining momentum. Finally, the first dictator had to resign in March 1969 and fresh elections were announced on the basis of one man, one vote. In the first free and fair elections in 1970, ZAB’s party bagged 81 National Assembly seats from West Pakistan. His three years of struggle and ideological base prevailed over the forces of status-quo. It was a real resistance-based democratic evolution.

Read more: Maryam Nawaz is not just a liar but also incompetent, Dr. Shahbaz Gill

Rise of Sharif dynasty

Nawaz Sharif gained power, not by struggle or support of the masses, it was a grab with the full backing of the establishment of the time. In fact, he was brought in to neutralize the power base of the PPP. ZAB understood the importance of Lahore, which is why he launched his party from there and then willed to be buried in the metropolis. Nawaz and his ‘Kings Party’ were directed to focus on the city where ZAB had solid support. With the help of the administrative machinery and official dole outs like plots and permits, he succeeded in creating a foothold. The city is now considered to be ‘Takht-e-Lahore’ (Throne) of the Sharif Dynasty. There are no-go areas in Lahore ruled directly by the ‘Gullu Butts’ of Gowalmandi, the area from where the Sharifs emerged. The party is based on vested, personal interests with almost no street power or record of struggle. With a strong hold and influence in the administration, it considers itself to be a chip of the establishment and has now decided to take it on for its pound of flesh. For street support it relies on religious parties like the Jamaat Islami or Jamiat Ulema Islam, which have organized militant wings.

Bhutto’s party despite the Zardari plunder remains a genuine political outfit. There are stark differences between the two. Till today PPP remains a progressive anti-establishment party while the PML(N) behaves like its anti democracy designers, the establishment. When they are called for accountability they come with stones to attack the National Accountability Bureau instead of documents to be exonerated. By contrast, in his last appearance in the Supreme Court in the 1970s, despite the apparent bias of the four judges of the Lahore High Court, ZAB reposed full confidence in the judiciary. The decision was split, yet he did not appeal for clemency (no Muk Muka). He had all the chances to escape but decided to stay and fight it out. The PPP has won five national elections and still retains power in Sindh. Evolution comes through struggle, not power grab as was done by the PML(N). While the establishment has always tried to curb the PPP vote bank to support ‘ Kings Parties’, Benazir emerged victorious in the 1988 elections.

Read more: Maryam Nawaz unhappy with the success of Aseefa Bhutto at PDM rally: reports

A genuine political party relies on the support of the masses, while an establishment creation like the PML-N scrambles for power grab by manipulating the electoral process which is the anti-thesis of their recent slogan, ‘Vote ki Izzat‘ (respect for the vote), while in fact it should be termed; ‘ Voter ki Beizzati‘ (Disrespect the voter).

Dr. Farid A.Malik is the Ex-Chairman Pakistan Science Foundation. He was a Shadow Minister PTI and Co-Ordinator of the PTI Think Tank where the framework of the Welfare State was developed. The article was first published in Pakistan Today and has been republished here after making certain changes for which prior permission from the author was taken. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy.