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An eventful day in history

Alishae Khar

Yesterday marked the founding day of a party that would forever change the course of Pakistan’s history. Pakistan’s People’s Party, is one party that has to date left its strong foot-print in Pakistan’s political, social and cultural fabric. As an adherent PPP follower, I find myself reminiscing of the days when my grandfather would tell us the story of how this historic party met its eventual decay. As a child, this story would resonate like a tragic Greek story of a hero, who was one meant to be the “saviour” of the voiceless and down-trodden. And I always found it fascinating to see how a man, who rose from the ashes of the dictator, would turn out to be the greatest harbinger of democracy. But during his democratic phase, he would amass a lot of power. To the extent that he would hire a paramilitary secret force to even dig up dirt on his own cabinet members, to keep them on a leash. This is why Bhutto’s name and legacy leaves us with mixed feelings.

I have never met any politically shrewd person who has viewed this enigmatic character in moderation. For my grandfather, a PPP stalwart; this man was a constitutional expert, a saviour of the masses, and an international figure who did not bow down before the imperial west. And many of these claims hold to be true. Bhutto gave the country its first proper democratic constitution. He gave the country a functional democracy, after a whimsical game of musical chairs between the dictators. He stood equal to the international leaders of that time, be it Richard Nixon or Indira Ghandi—storm out of the United Nations when not heard and collect the likes of Ghaddafi, Shah of Iran, Yasser Araft and other Pan-Islamic leaders under the banner of the Organisation of Islamic Countries (OIC) as a counter lobby to growing Western Imperialism. And pave way to the first “Islamic bomb”—a deterrent that we hold dear to date.

None of this would have been possible without Bhutto. In essence, Bhutto was a true visionary, living way ahead of his times, an aristocratic noble, from the womb of Lakhi Bai. But then he is also the same Bhutto who refused to hand over democratic power to Shiekh Mujib-ur-Rehman, to save the break up of his beloved country. He is also the same Bhutto who nationalised all the industries that eventually led to the downfall of the economy. And he is the same Bhutto, who was autocratic in nature, but democratic in constitution. In many ways, he was a man full of contradictions, an enigma to this date.

But this piece was meant to pay tribute to a great man and leader; whose party to-date lives on the name of Zulfikhar Ali Bhutto. It was meant to celebrate that fifteen-year-old boy in Bombay Cathedral School, who wrote a passionate letter to Muhammad Ali Jinnah on Indo-Pak politics. The phenomenal lawyer who spoke of the Riparian Rights of states in International Law, after the aftermath of the Indus Water Treaty. And the man, who espoused values of socialism, egalitarian democracy and Marxism; at a time when social inequality was breeding at the eve of democracy. In essence, Pakistan has much to owe to Bhutto and his mixed legacy. And it was exactly, fifty-four years ago, yesterday, that this party was founded when a bunch of intellectuals, socialists and Marxists gathered in the house of Mubashar Hassan. I had the pleasure of visiting that house, where he showed me the tree planted on the day of the convention. Smiling and politely telling me that the tree was as old as the party itself. On the side of the tree was an old garage, where Mubashar Sahab’s yellow foxy was parked. “You know,” he told me, “Bhutto was never stuck up. He would much rather prefer riding in my foxy, than any other fancy car or convertible, of those days.” And he smiled and remembered the time when Bhutto was welcomed by throngs and throngs of followers at the Lahore train. So much so, that there was no space for him to even step down, and Mubashar Sahab had to drive his yellow foxy to the train carriage, so that he could escape into his car.

Yesterday marked an eventful day in Pakistan’s journey. A day that should always be remembered in the annals of our history.