June 14, 2008

It was but an anti-PPP show

Filed under: NEW GOVERNMENT AFTER MARCH 24-2008 — civilsocietypakistan @ 9:20 pm
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JUNE 14, 2008



Updated at  
Saturday, June 14, 2008
News Analysis

By Shaheen Sehbai

KARACHI: The massive show of peoples� power at the Parade Avenue on Friday night has proven one undeniable fact: the PPP is not the only political force which can bring the masses on the streets and it will now always remain a challenge whether it will ever be able to match this show.

The long march has also proven another unfortunate fact, a totally avoidable one: the PPP is standing on the wrong side of what the people of Pakistan want. Almost everyone who knows the PPP would agree that if Benazir Bhutto would have been alive, she would never have allowed such a massive show of strength against her own party as she always had her fingers on the pulse of the nation.

But sadly the convoluted politics and the compromised positions of her political heirs have made her genuinely popular party into a virtual ally of a falling dictator, a villain of the drama and that too when the last act is being played out on the stage in front of the three otherwise sacred buildings � the Parliament, the Supreme Court and the Presidency.

Another ironic fallout of this huge show would be a massive backlash within the PPP itself as bulk of the party leadership and following, which for years braved the dictator and fought him with all other pro-democracy forces, would not like to be left behind standing in a corner as a collaborator, when the defeated dictator finally cuts and runs.

This large part of the PPP, still loyal to the monumental struggle of Benazir Bhutto, feels betrayed because the present party leadership has brought it to a position in which others are set to enjoy the fruits, and credit, of defeating a dictator. This should have been the genuine reward for the PPP Jiyalas and they are being, nay have been, robbed of it.

Many inside, and outside the PPP, say that the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) is the root cause of this PPP deformation � a makeover from the party of fighters to a gang of collaborators.

It is true that Benazir Bhutto struck a deal with the dictator and the NRO was the centre piece of her deal with Musharraf, but given her political sagacity and vision, when she secured her return to Pakistan and saw the ground realities, she quickly changed gears, tuning her politics to the realities. She stayed on the side of the people despite her deal.

This quickly forced Musharraf to complain loudly to the guarantors and middlemen that she had betrayed him and had gone back on her word. Her politics pushed Musharraf into a corner as he could neither stop her nor he could face the Saudi pressure to allow Nawaz Sharif back. By one master stroke, Benazir achieved twin objectives, leaving the dictator reeling.

But as she knew what she was doing, Benazir quickly realised that her life was not safe and thus she wrote that famous letter nominating Musharraf, Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi and ex-IB chief Ejaz Shah as the persons who should be held responsible if she was assassinated.

Whoever did that knew that if she had to be stopped, she had to be silenced forever, and they did so in Rawalpindi. But unfortunately the PPP after Benazir Bhutto was not prepared for the tragedy and the party could neither cash the massive sympathy wave nor did it retain the fighting spirit of its departed leader.

A shocked and clueless party fell into the lap of Asif Ali Zardari who, stunned and disoriented, as anyone in his situation would have been, tried well to keep the pieces together and control the mob frenzy that gripped Sindh and the rest of the country.

But once his control over the party was established, he took pragmatism and reconciliation to such silly lengths that it almost turned into a farce. It can be best described by the joke which has circulated on the SMS circuit for weeks: “PPP is like a tenant in a house where the owner says all old cooks, drivers, guards, janitors and servants would stay, all bills will be paid by the new tenant and on top of all, the old tenant will also stay in the house.”

That was where the PPP started losing its image as the party of the people, always fighting the establishment, to a pro-establishment ‘B’ team of the dictator. In bits and pieces Mr Zardari has tried occasionally to regain the initiative by some bold statements against the president but his actions have spoken louder than his words. He is stung by the NRO and cannot confront the guarantors and middlemen, although he was not a signatory to the deal Benazir had reached. He was kept outside that framework.

Last night, when the crowds of hundreds of thousands had gathered before the Parliament House, a friend sent a message to Zardari saying: “You can still steal the show. Tell your PM to go and announce in the long march that Musharraf will be impeached tomorrow and the judges would be restored.” “I will let my elder brother (Nawaz Sharif) take the credit,” the PPP leader in Karachi responded to his friend. So he will.


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