LAHORE - In what appears to be a major shift in policy, the party of ZA Bhutto has dissociated itself from the left-wing politics, a political philosophy it adhered to for long and came to be known as the single largest party in Pakistan with liberal outlook.
It came as a shock for most of the members of PPP’s Central Executive Committee at a recent meeting at Larkana when they learnt from none other than party’s defecto chairman, Asif Ali Zardari that concept of ‘left and right-wing’ politics had become obsolete and was no more in fashion now.
“It is the ideology of 1960’s, 70’s and the 80’s. It is no more relevant now,” came the verdict from Asif Ali Zardari in response to a proposal during the meeting.
The party chairman had invited suggestions from the CEC members to galvanise the party, especially in Punjab. Veteran PPP leader Ch Aitzaz Ahsan and some others came up with the idea that PPP should proactively pursue the left-wing politics and reach out to the people who were fed up with extremist tendencies in society. Ahsan believed it could be one of the tools to activate the party cadres and amass support from the public at large. But the party chairman, according to sources, did not agree to the suggestion and rejected it as being something not in vogue. “Even the PML-N, the main rival of the PPP in Punjab, is no longer a party of the right-wing,” came another voice in support of the party head.
Pertinent to mention here that PPP has been the only political party in Pakistan with roots in all the provinces and known among the masses for its left-wing tendencies. Other political parties like ANP, MQM and nationalist parties had also been following a leftist ideology, but they never got the popularity PPP had been enjoying over the years.
The PPP was also considered a party which was against the status quo and voice of the labour classes. It believed in freedom of thought and social progressivism.
In this contest, it is important to note that after the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, the PPP cadres gradually developed a feeling that their party was deviating from the basic principle which served as the very basis of its foundation. These were: “Islam is our faith, democracy is our politics, socialism is our economy and all power to the people”.
Apart from this, the PP had also promised to eliminate feudalism to protect the interests of peasantry. Though ZA Bhutto introduced land reforms but these were not implemented in letter and spirit. The disgruntled PPP leaders including Naheed Khan and Dr Safdar Abbasi openly criticised the new leadership accusing it of indulging in power politics. Others kept murmuring in party circles complaining about the same thing.
A senior PPP leader, however, said that rejection of the proposal did not mean that PPP would be doing politics of the right –wing instead. “The PPP remains committed to its founding principles- the establishment of an egalitarian democracy and the application of socialistic ideas to realize economic and social justice,” he said. An insider told The Nation that despite the fact that party head was not inclined to revival of left wing politics as a means to win elections, the PPP might keep its posture of being a leftist party but in actual terms it might not pursue this ideology as a party slogan.
In Pakistan and elsewhere, the left-wing parties are known for their anti-clerical approach. Though they are not anti-religion, but they think that religion has nothing to do with affairs of the state. They are also against centralizing political power in the hands of leaders of govt, and, rather support distribution of power among the people. On the other hand, the politics of the right-wing is associated with conservatism; as against liberalism of the left-wing. In the US, Republican Party is more conservative, so it is ‘on the right’, and the Democratic Party is more liberal, so it is ‘on the left’. At present, JI, JUI, JUP and some other religious parties are doing ‘right-wing’ politics in the real sense. Though the PML-N and PTI also tend to associate themselves with this ideology but it is only to the extent of grabbing religious vote bank.