Pakistan’s largest center-left party faces uphill task

By Aamir Latif

KARACHI, Pakistan (AA) – Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), once most popular political party in the country, is facing an uphill task in the upcoming elections with analysts seeing it even nowhere near to form the next government.

A gradual decline in public support because of corruption scandals and bad governance has thrown the country’s largest center-left party to the bottom in three out of four provinces, latest surveys suggested.

The party founded in 1967 by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, who later became the country’s first democratically elected prime minister in 1970, and later led by his daughter, the two-time premier Benazir Bhutto, carries a “legacy of martyrs.”

Mr. Bhutto whose government had been toppled by the then military ruler Gen Zia-ul-Haq in 1977, was sentenced to death in a murder case in 1979. His daughter, who served as premier from 1988 to 1990, and 1993 to 1996 was assassinated in garrison city of Rawalpindi at a public gathering in 2007.

The party seems to enjoy public support only in Sindh — the country’s second largest province — where it has ruled for the last two consecutive terms from 2008 to 2013, and 2013 to 2015.

Whereas in its birthplace Punjab — the largest and most prosperous province — which has been its stronghold from 1970 to 2008 amid excellent to average election results, the party presently does not even stands in the first three, according to latest surveys.

Similarly, in northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhawa (KP), and southwestern Balochistan provinces, the party appears to be on fifth position.

The party however, seems to emerge as the majority party in Sindh in the upcoming elections.

– Decline

Analysts see multiple reasons behind PPP’s decline in Punjab — its former powerbase — and other provinces, which range from end of ideological politics to poor organization, and from friendly opposition to bad governance.

“In 1970 elections, the contest in Punjab was between two ideological parties — Jamat e Islami and PPP — but with the passage of time, the ideological politics was replaced by cast and linguistic politics not only in Punjab but across the country,” Mazhar Abbas, a Karachi-based political analyst told Anadolu Agency.

As a result, he believed, most of the political parties, except a few, had a provincial posture rather than a national posture.

Another crucial mistake, he observed, was committed by Benazir Bhutto who unlike her father did not make Punjab as the party’s political base, and concentrated on Sindh only.

“It was a big mistake that led to the PPP’s decline in Punjab, and rise of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, [of three-time premier Nawaz Sharif], which at that time enjoyed the full backing of the powerful military establishment,” he opined.

The PPP could not pick the changing trends in the country, especially in Punjab and KP, which was compounded by the poor selection of local leadership, Abbas added.

Unfortunately, he went on to say, PPP had restricted itself to Sindh only.

Ghulam Mustafa Jarwar, another political analyst from Karachi shares similar views.

“PPP has consciously made up its view that it is only a Sindh-based party, and cannot succeed in Punjab and other provinces”, he said while speaking to Anadolu Agency.

Even in Sindh, he observed, PPP was not enjoying a smooth sailing.

“(PPP) workers basically have a democratic mindset. They would argue with their leadership in past but the current leadership has no time and space for workers,” Jarwar said.

“The party is currently relying on tribal chieftains and landlords to win the constituencies,” he added.