PPP’s Losing Strategy

PPP Supporters Protest Blasphemy

A famous quotation attributed to the British political philosopher Edmund Burke says that “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing”. That may be the least that is necessary, but it’s not the only path. Evil can also triumph when good men undermine their own cause by taking a page out of evil’s playbook. Unfortunately, that seems to be happening among some in PPP, and it’s a losing strategy.

As elections draw near, politics naturally takes a turn for the worst. Disgust at the now well-known YouTube video was justified, but the hijacking of the people’s sentiments by religious parties and banned groups was not. By calling for a national holiday, PPP’s strategy to limit these group’s ability to exploit the situation was not only too clever by half, it actually played into the hands of extremist groups.

While most people have focused on the holiday’s giving legitimacy to the demonstrations, what has been largely overlooked is that the national holiday gave extremist groups cover to carry out violent attacks. By nightfall on Friday, groups like Jamaat-e-Islami and Jamaat-ud-Dawa took to the media to proclaim that any acts of violence were not carried out by their organisations who protested peacefully. As proof, they dared anyone to provide evidence of JI or JuD supporters doing such acts while they provided photos and videos of their supporters waving flags and chanting peacefully.

Of course this is a classic smoke and mirrors operation. All these groups had to do is make sure to document their supporters with flags acting peacefully, while their supporters without flags created mayhem. With the entire nation on holiday, it would be impossible to sort out who is who. Before you think this is going a step too far, keep in mind that we’re talking about groups that claim they don’t engage in violence and believe they’re telling the truth because they have redefined violence.

Unfortunately, some PPP leaders didn’t stop with the passive strategy of declaring the national holiday that gave cover to the extremists, they started parroting them themselves in order to appeal to the national mood.

Headlines reporting Rehman Malik’s telling the West to stop supporting Pakistan’s enemies sounded more like a speech at a DPC rally than the statements of a Federal Minister. Of course, this isn’t the first time that Rehman Malik has ventured off of his script in an attempt to appease the right wing – the worst episode being when he threatened to kill blasphemers with his own hands following the murder of one of his own party leaders by a crazed lunatic.

Then there’s Ghulam Ahmed Bilour who sounded more like Mullah Yousaf Qureshi than a Federal Minister when he announced a bounty of $100,000 for murder of the maker of the offensive video. Granted Bilour is ANP and not PPP, but as the leader of a coalition government, the PPP must take responsibility for his presence in the Cabinet.

That these statements and the national holiday are poorly thought out should be obvious. Not only do they undermine the PPP’s position as a modern, progressive political party, they also gain nothing. Let’s face reality – no matter how much support PPP leaders give for right-wing issues, they will never be enough to win the support of the right-wing.

Munawar Hasan and Hafiz Saeed attack the PPP as irreligious not because they want PPP to accept their positions. They do it because they have nothing to offer the people and therefore have to rely on attacks. Giving in to their demands will not neutralise their attacks, it will only make their demands more extreme. Today it is protests against an internet video clip, tomorrow its funding for jihad…then what? Continue down this path for very long and at a certain point, the PPP becomes completely irrelevant.

And this brings us to the point. If the PPP leadership does not have the courage of conviction to sack Federal Ministers who cross the line to openly advocate murder, on what moral authority are they asking for our support?

The PPP became the most popular political party across the nation not because it campaigned on religious symbols, but because it campaigned on the substance of our religion. What is ‘Roti, Kapra aur Makan’ if not the command of almighty Allah to care for the poor of society? Just as Islam was spread across the region not at the tip of a sword but by the demonstration of tolerance and love that was shown by earlier Muslims, the PPP’s popularity was gained not through threats and intimidation but by fighting for the rights of the country’s poorest and least powerful.

Bilawal’s passionate speech on the martyrdom of Salmaan Taseer Shaheed exemplified the type of courageous and inspirational leadership that the people are desperate for – one that stands up for justice without fear, not when it is toeing the popular line, but when it stands out. In this, he has reminded the people of his mother who never pretended to be an extremist to gain popular support, but rather watered the roots of tolerance and democracy with her own life’s blood.

We have seen this courage in other recent PPP leaders, also: Salmaan Taseer Shaheed, Shahbaz Bhatti Shaheed, Sherry Rehman, Farahnaz Ispahani. We have heard it in the statements of Ahmad Mukhtar and Nadeem Afzal Chan, both of them unwavering in speaking out against the sectarianism that is ripping our nation apart at the seams. This should be the public face of what is supposed to be the nation’s largest liberal party, not appeasement and parroting.

There is another, less popular quotation from Mr Edmund Burke that bears remembering as well: “I take toleration to be a part of religion. I do not know which I would sacrifice; I would keep them both: it is not necessary that I should sacrifice either.” The PPP does not need to sacrifice tolerance to align itself with the religion of the masses, it only needs to faithfully stick to its founding principles. Doing otherwise is a losing strategy.

Complete text of address by Bilawal


Following is the complete text of the speech of Chairman Pakistan Peoples Party Bilawal Bhutto Zardari delivered during the Central Executive Committee meeting of the PPP on the eve of 33rd death anniversary of Shaheed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto on Tuesday.

Text beings:

Bismillah-ir-rahman Rahim

When we mourn Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, we mourn, more than just a great man, the first popularly elected Prime Minister and first ever Sindhi President and Prime Minister of Pakistan.

We mourn the murder of democracy.

We mourn the murder of justice.

We mourn for our country.

The Supreme Court of Pakistan sentenced Shaheed Bhutto to death by hanging for a crime he did not commit. This judicial murder was not the first nor the last flawed decision our courts have made.

Unfortunately our courts have often stood on the wrong side of history. From the Doctrine of Necessity, to the judicial murder of Shaheed Bhutto and the continued legitimization of violations of our constitution our court shave not performed the role required of them by the constitution of Pakistan.

In 2007, in the final months of the Dictatorship of the day, our courts gave us hope. The brave stance adopted by our judges and the support of the lawyers movement gave us hope that Pakistan would have a truly independent and impartial judiciary.

The restoration of these judges by our Prime Minister was a truly historic milestone for our country.

Now it is up to the courts to redeem their institutions sullied reputation in the eyes of history. Was their brave stance evidence of the beginning of a new era in Pakistan where the judges of our courts will be remembered for dispensing justice, supporting democracy and refusing to do the bidding of our establishment? Or was their stance in 2007 just the exception that proves the rule, were our hopes raised for naught? Must we learn the hard way that once a PCO judge always a PCO judge?

Time will tell. I am confident that the PPP will finally get the justice we deserve in the eyes of history. I am confident the Supreme Court will deliver us this justice. I am confident the Supreme Court will not stand in the way. The Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto reference case is a golden opportunity for the Supreme Court. I expect the Supreme Court to finally provide us justice. Justice in the eyes of history – the court must set the record straight. Justice in the eyes of the law – the unholy judgment and the precedent set by it must be revoked. Justice in the eyes of the People, the PPP and Shaheed Bhutto’s family – we expect the Supreme Court to apologise for the role it played in the judicial murder of Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.

The Supreme Court once told us Shaheed Bhutto was guilty. The court of history is on our side and has proved his innocence.

There have been some positive developments in the decisions taken by the court to right the wrongs of the past. These developments give me the confidence to believe that the Bhuttos of Larkana will also get the justice they deserve.

The Sharifs of Lahore have had their trumped up charges squashed by the courts. I do not believe there will be double standards. I do not believe that Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto of Larkana is hanged but he does not get justice from these courts while the Sharifs of Lahore are vindicated.

Similarly the Asgar Khan case has finally been taken up by the Supreme Court. Shaheed Benazir Bhutto fought for more than a decade for this case to be heard. It is a positive development that following Imran Khan of Lahore’s demand the case has finally been heard. I have no doubt the forces that conspired against the PPP and Shaheed BB shall finally be exposed.

Despite these positive developments there are also some worrying signs. More than 50% of terrorists presented before our courts have been freed. I am told there is a lack of evidence and the fault lies with the prosecution.

The rapists of our sister Mukhtara Mai have been freed by the courts. Presumably for the same reasons. How can there be enough evidence to hang SZAB but not enough evidence to keep terrorists and rapists in prison. How can there be enough evidence to keep Benazir Bhutto Shaheed, President Zardari and Prime Minister Gillani in prison for so long without a conviction but rapists and terrorists are set free. How can there be enough evidence to attempt to try the grave of Shaheed Mohatarma Benazir Bhutto but rapists and terrorists are set free? I urge the courts to proceed with caution. I urge the courts to revisit their flawed decision in the Mukhtara Mai case. I urge the court to help keep our country safe by convicting terrorists for the atrocities they have committed. I urge the court to remember how they got where they are today. On May 12, 2007, 40 members of my party lost their lives supporting this Chief Justice and the cause of an independent judiciary. Is this what they deserve? When will we get justice?

The courts are dangerously close to repeating the mistakes of the past. They should resist the temptation to obey the dictation of the establishment.
We cannot allow the court to dig up my mothers grave and put her martyred corpse on trial.

Mr. Prime Minister you will not violate Vienna convention, you will not violate the Constitution of Pakistan, you will not desecrate the graves of our martyrs. You may lose your office. You may lose your government but you must do what is right. There is not only the Supreme Court, there is also the court of the people and the court of history.

The Supreme Court told us Shaheed Bhutto was guilty. They hanged Zulfikar Ali Bhutto of Larkana, but the court of the people and the court of history was on our side and we have been vindicated. Just as Shaheed Bhutto was vindicated, you too shall be vindicated.

They can threaten to send Yousuf Raza Gillani of Multan to prison but he is a follower of Bhutto Shaheed. We do not fear prison cells. We do not fear death cells. As Shaheed Bhutto said. We would rather die at the hands of a dictator than at the hands of history.

Let us pray that cooler heads prevail. Let us pray that our Supreme Court will once again choose to stand on the right side of history. Let us pray that there will not be double standards. That Shaheed Bhutto of Sindh was hanged but another Prime Minister from Punjab is freed. That Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto fought in every court in this country and around the world to maintain her innocence. While a former Prime Minister from Punjab, a self confessing, convicted accused is vindicated, while Shaheed BB is put on trial from her grave.

That a Prime Minister who ransacked the Supreme Court is given better treatment over our Serikie speaking prime minister who obeys the constitution and presents himself before the court is stripped of his constitutional rights.

I have faith in the Pakistan Peoples Party. I have faith in democracy. I have faith in Pakistan. I have faith in you Mr. Prime Minister. You will make Shaheed Benazir Bhutto and Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto proud. We will get justice. If not now. If not by this court. We will be vindicated in the courts of history.

The people have spoken. We are all agreed.

“Hum Benazir Bhutto Shaheed ki Qabar ka trial nahi honay den gay” “Ya Allah, Ya Rasoolh, Benazir Bayqossor.”

Bilawal: On the fourth death anniversary of my mother

by Bilawal Bhutto Zardari

Bilawal Bhutto ZardariTo the world, she was an icon. To me, she was my mother. On the fourth anniversary of that dark day, indelible in the history of Pakistan, when our greatest leader and our best hope was ripped from our lives and our future, I am flooded with emotion. She accomplished so much, but I am most focused on what she might have accomplished had she lived. Like a Pakistan that the Quaid-i-Azam could have lived longer to shape, like the dream she never lived to write, we can never know what might have been.

What we do know is that there are 86,000 more schools because of Shaheed Benazir Bhutto. That, under her government foreign investment quadrupled; energy production doubled; exports boomed. Under her government, 100,000 female health workers fanned out across the country, bringing health care, nutrition, pre and postnatal care, to millions of our poorest citizens. It was under her government that women were admitted as judges to the nation’s courts, that women’s police departments were established to help women who suffered from domestic violence and a women’s bank was established to give micro loans to women to start small businesses. It was under Shaheed Benazir Bhutto’s leadership that cell phones, fibre optics and international media were introduced, and the Pakistani software industry blossomed. And it was on her very first day as prime minister, that all political prisoners were freed, unions legalised and the press uncensored. It was an amazing record of accomplishment, made even more remarkable by the constraint of aborted tenures, by constant pressure from a hostile establishment and presidents with the power to sack elected governments.

She never had a free and fair election. She was always under siege. She would say: “We were in government but not in power.” Yet she delivered so much. And we can only dream of what might have been had she lived. One thing I am certain of — three-quarters of a billion Muslim women all around the world would have felt empowered, would have rejected limits on their opportunity to learn, to earn, to grow and to lead. Almost two billion Muslims around the world would have seen a modern face of Islam belying the caricature of our great religion in the West and the demagoguery of the jihadists within our own ranks.

Modern, moderate, tolerant, pluralistic and, above all, democratic Islam, would have had not just a face, but a voice, a true leader not afraid to challenge dictators, oppressors, bigots or terrorists. That is what we lost on December 27, 2007. That day the country was on fire. It was ready to rip apart at the seams. With my father’s slogan, “Pakistan Khappay”, Pakistan was saved from certain disintegration.

With the slogan, “Democracy is the best revenge”, we chose my mother’s vision of peaceful resolution over violent retribution. We could have demanded a revolution. However, my mother taught me to believe in evolution, not revolution. When she landed in Lahore in 1986, the millions of people who greeted her could have been ordered to storm the dictator’s palace and take Pakistan back by force. Yet the PPP has always been careful to distinguish between the army as an institution and the dictator who abuses his position. We have always believed in a strong military under the control of an elected government. Similarly, following the judicial murder of my grandfather, we chose to condemn the verdict and those behind it, but never ransacked the Supreme Court.

We have always supported an independent judiciary and would never let the abuses of individual judges in the past sabotage our mission of establishing a free, impartial and independent judiciary. This is why we knew in 2007 that we had to distinguish between Musharraf and the army as an institution. A strong military is needed in order to protect our territorial borders and defeat the internal cancer of Islamist extremism. The politicisation of this institution under dictatorship engages it in arenas where it has no place and, as a result, weakens its ability to perform its primary function.

Today, we stand by the same principles: in reconciliation and not violent revolution. The evolution of a transition to democracy has already borne fruit. Under the military dictatorship, when our brave soldiers were martyred by terrorists, they were buried in secrecy in the dead of night. It is only once the elected government gave ownership to the fight against extremists and made it Pakistan’s war that we can bury our soldiers with honour and proudly announce their martyrdom for their country. It is only under a democratic government that Pakistan finally stood up to demand respect from the United States and to do what the dictator with all his military might could not — evacuate the Shamsi airbase. We have onerous challenges before us, but to face those, we need to secure our foundation. The democratic government, through the National Finance Commission Award and Eighteenth Amendment, gives the smaller provinces a stake in their country and a stake in their own resources, which under dictatorship were exploited by the centre, creating resentment against the federation. Yet even this is not enough. The push for economic and energy reform must go forward, as must our promise to build a Pakistan where education is the path to empowerment.

Had we chosen the path of revolution over evolution on that fateful December 27, both the army and the Peoples Party would have been weakened. That would have left the only other armed group, the terrorists, with the opportunity to exploit the situation and seize control of our country. We must remain committed to the evolution of a democratic Pakistan and reject the calls for confrontation between institutions. My mother died fighting for a Peaceful, Prosperous and Progressive Pakistan. I will never give up on my mother’s Pakistan. I will never give up on the woman who sacrificed herself so Pakistan could be free. Her dreams are now my dreams — that is my promise to you; that is my promise to her.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 27th, 2011.

Bilawal’s Speech to International Conference of Asian Political Parties

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari addresses International Conference of Asian Political Parties

“Your Excellencies,

Honourable delegates,

Ladies and gentlemen,

“I am honored to have the opportunity to address this distinguished gathering. It is a privilege to be present among Asia’s leading political leaders – I am conscious that sitting amongst us today are the men and women who will shape the 21st century.”

“For me, personally, it is a special moment for another reason also. Eleven years ago, my late mother, Shaheed Mohtrama Benazir Bhutto, represented the Pakistan People’s Party at the First International Conference of Asian Political Parties in Manila.”

“Ladies and gentlemen,

Everyone is calling the 21st century the “Asian Century”. It is true that the transformation of Asia’s role in the global scheme of things has been nothing short of miraculous. By 2050, Asia is expected to contribute more than half of the world’s economic output, restoring the world’s largest continent to the position of economic dominance it had held 300 years ago.“ “In short, we may be witnessing the birth of a new world order. “ “This would make ICAPP, as a gathering of Asia’s top political leadership, an exceedingly important forum in the 21st century. This in itself is a tribute to the foresight and vision of ICAPP’s founding leaders.”

“In fact, to read the “Asian Declaration” issued at the end of the First ICAPP in Manila is to read a manifesto for today. Here is an 11-year-old document that touches on all the major issues of our times. Its call for Asian countries to strengthen economic cooperation, guard against future financial crises and establish an Asian Monetary Fund resonates more deeply today than they did even in 2000.“

“These words should give us pause as Asia teeters on the brink of a second global recession that is not of its making – barely three years after it weathered the first. They should inspire us to build a new, independent financial order for Asia that would enable us to chart our own course in the future.” “We should also reflect on the First ICAPP’s appeal to Asian governments to do more to address poverty and economic inequalities. While Asia can be proud of the rapid pace of its economic development, it must ensure that the fruits of this growth are shared out equally among its people. Economic development should be for the people, not at the expense of the people. As political parties in our respective countries, it is our responsibility to ensure that our people remain invested in the political process. This is only possible by enforcing the highest standards of transparency and accountability in our government and political institutions.“

“Secondly, I feel there is something prophetic about the Declaration’s appeal to Asian countries to seek the peaceful resolution of regional disputes and act in unison against “transnational crimes”. Force alone will not defeat terrorism and extremism – unless it is force tempered with political engagement and economic development.“

“Key to such economic development is poverty alleviation. We, in Pakistan have initiated the Benazir Income Support Program, which serves the dual purpose of poverty alleviation and women’s emancipation. Over 80 billion rupees have been distributed to 4 million women living in poverty.“

“As you know, Sindh and Baluchistan has yet again been inundated by heavy rains and flooding. Millions have been displaced once again and that placed an enormous burden on our people. However, we are a resilient nation and we will fully recover.”

“Finally, I would like to address what I call the fear factor. As the sun rises in the east and sets in the west there is a worrying climate of fear developing amongst our friends in the west. It is worrying that some unable to reach the necessary compromise to address their own internal structural economic flaws instead choose to demonize emerging Asian economic superpowers. Instead of appreciating the financial support provided by China, some within their society spread malicious propaganda design to provoke fear of the other and distract from their own failings.“

“This dangerous shortsightedness could lead to paranoid overreactions with catastrophic consequences. I dread the return to the divided world, a world of competing spheres of influence, a world of cold wards, a world of hot wars, a world of cyber wars and a world of economic wars.“

“Divide and rule, the politician cries; unite and lead is watchword of the wise.”

• Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

“We want a united world of equals not a divided world of rivals. “ “I stand before the world as a son who has lost his mother to the evils of terrorism. I stand before you as a son willing to risk my life to rid my country, my region and the entire world of the mind-set that assassinated Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto. This mind-set poses the greatest threat to the way of life as we know it.”

“My country lies wounded as a victim of terror. We don’t lack the will, we lack the means. We are neither complicit nor are we incompetent, we lack the capacity to face the worlds enemies on our own. At a time of global recession and natural disasters, when Pakistan requires sympathy, support and assistance from the west we are met with suspicious, accusations and demonisation. This too is a product of fear. We know that drones, raids and unilateral actions are not the answers. Dialogue, deterrence, development and democracy is the only road map to peace.” “As Asian political parties we should join hands and reassure our friends in the west, we must make collective efforts to eliminate these unfounded fears. Ultimately, it would require the collective will and joint action of all the peace-loving countries of the world to banish these dark forces permanently from our midst. I believe the International Conference of Asian Political Parties is an ideal platform for the expression of such collective will.”

“Before I conclude, I would like to thank our hosts, the Chinese government, for their generous hospitality and for taking the initiative in organizing this conference. China’s support for multilateral mechanisms like the ICAPP reflects its commitment to the cause of peace and stability in Asia and beyond. It is a reflection of China’s resolve to work with other countries in the pursuit of the larger objectives that affect all of humanity.”

“I am also happy that the Conference has afforded me an opportunity to visit China during the “Pakistan-China Friendship Year”. Our two countries are bound together by fraternal and brotherly ties that have stood the test of time. I am glad to have had the chance to make new friends in China and to experience some more of the richness of its astonishing cultural diversity as ever I am eternally grateful for China’s consistent support for Pakistan. “

“Ladies and gentlemen,

The International Conference of Asian Political Parties was founded 11 years ago with the noblest motives and highest aspirations. It is up to us to see that the dream stays alive. Let us use this opportunity to come together and enunciate our vision for the future. I have no doubt that together we can usher in the Asian Century.”

Thank you”.