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For PPP, power trumps principles

Updated March 09, 2018

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FOR a brief few days, a more positive side of the party re-emerged.

But quickly enough, the uglier side has reasserted itself.

The election of Krishna Kumari to the Senate was a much-needed and welcome move by the PPP.

The farewell speech of Farhatullah Babar and the strong comments in defence of democracy by outgoing Senate chairman Raza Rabbani gave cheer to PPP ideologues and supporters of democracy across the political spectrum.

A turnaround in the recent politics of the PPP was not expected, but the swiftness and brutality with which PPP supremo Asif Zardari has slapped down Mr Rabbani and his long-time personal spokesperson Mr Babar is stunning.

To be sure, the PPP leadership is not bound to support Mr Rabbani for another term as Senate chairman and Mr Zardari can select whomsoever he deems appropriate to be his personal spokesperson.

But the timing and the indecorous nature of the moves against Mr Rabbani and Mr Babar suggest more cynical motives.

In effect, Mr Babar and Mr Rabbani appear to be facing punishment for their blunt expressions in support of democracy and against anti-democratic interference in the political process.

Set aside the personal repercussions for the two senators, what does the PPP stand for today politically? Like other major political parties and political actors in the country, the PPP has had to make compromises at many points in its history.

That is the reality of mainstream politics everywhere and the burden of civilian politicians in Pakistan.

But compromise cannot and should not amount to a thorough dismantling of political legacy and rejection of all principles and political ideology.

Mr Rabbani and Mr Babar are not the primary custodians of the PPP’s democratic politics, Mr Zardari and Bilawal Bhutto Zardari arguably are.

In publicly slighting the outgoing Senate chairman and a loyal retiring PPP senator, Mr Zardari has once again implicitly suggested that power politics trumps all principled considerations.

Perhaps Bilawal Bhutto Zardari will finally attempt to emerge from the political shadow of his father and carry the PPP back to its political roots.

For all of Mr Zardari’s machinations, or arguably because of them, the PPP is in a historic electoral decline.

His brand of politics may have allowed Mr Zardari and a close coterie of advisers to thrive, but surely even the PPP’s political base in rural Sindh is wobbly.

The absence of organised political opposition to the PPP in rural Sindh could be as large a factor in the PPP’s continuing dominance in the region as voters’ genuine allegiance to the party.

More than Mr Zardari may appreciate or even understand, the country needs the PPP and its original brand of national, people-oriented, progressive politics.

Power politics has a place and time, but not in every place at every time.

Published in Dawn, March 9th, 2018