Though the interim constitution had been approved, the opposition leaders did not believe that Z.A. Bhutto would treat them democratically. They doubted his every move and on certain occasions even complained that Bhutto had gone back on the Tripartite Agreement. Their suspicions grew when the appointment of governors in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan was delayed. Although no time frame for the appointments had been set, it was agreed that the centre would appoint governors in consultation with the majority party of that particular province. The developments appeared to be leading to the break-up of the agreement.

Bhutto quickly became aware of what JUI-NAP thought about him. In the backdrop of the developments in the country, it was difficult to sail without taking the two parties and small opposition in the National Assembly along. He, therefore, made several attempts to restore their confidence that included telling the opposition parties that if the interim constitution was approved in the April 14 session, he would lift martial law on April 17, rather than August 14. This gimmick worked and all the parties approved the interim constitution on April 17, 1972. Martial law was lifted on April 21, 1972.

This was followed by the appointment of a 25-member committee to form a permanent constitution led by Mian Mahmood Ali Kasuri, minister for law and parliamentary affairs. But in due course some events took place which created mistrust among the parties. Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, the red shirt leader and the Frontier Gandhi arrived in Pakistan on December 24, 1972, after ending an eight-year exile in Afghanistan.

On his arrival he was given a tumultuous reception. In his first statement he offered an unconditional support to Bhutto saying that he no longer supported Pakhtunistan as the Pakhtuns had got their government. Badshah Khan had great hope in Bhutto’s government for creating a new peaceful atmosphere but it soon shattered when he was not allowed to enter Quetta, where he wanted to speak in support of Baloch people’s rights. Though a number of emissaries spoke to Bhutto regarding following a reconciliatory approach which Ghaffar Khan had adopted, Badshah Khan’s movements were confined to Charsaddah.

As the constitution-making phase was in progress, some tragic events took place that dismayed many optimistic circles. On June 8, 1972, Dr Nazir Ahmad, an opposition MNA, was assassinated in his clinic in Dera Ghazi Khan. A respectable and honest person, belonging to Jamaat-i-Islami, he was vocal in criticising the government, which Bhutto did not like.

Similarly, Khwaja Mohammad Rafiq, an Ittehad Party leader from Lahore, was killed on December 20, 1972 near the assembly building when he was returning home after attending a political rally criticising the PPP government. There were other similar tragic events till the preparation of a permanent constitution, which created a pall of gloom and suspicion over the acts of the ruling party.

However, on October 20, 1972, Bhutto entered into a constitutional accord with the opposition parties.

A new year began amid these events and the People’s Party’s emerging philosophy, with political apprehensions hovering all over. At the time of adopting the interim constitution, Bhutto had said that he could get the document passed by his majority, which he did; but at the beginning of 1973 a feeling emerged that though the two provinces (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan) were being ruled by JUI-NAP coalition, Bhutto could bulldoze the National Assembly by approving its constitution, the draft of which had already been tabled in the National Assembly on December 31, 1972. Despite the constitutional accord of October 20, 1972, the opposition parties began registering their demands, which included lifting of the state of emergency and holding of fresh elections; Asghar Khan, who spearheaded the move, argued that the National Assembly was a part of the parliament of the united Pakistan, and now since the majority of the country had separated the remaining Pakistan needed a new mandate.

The situation calmed down for a while but heated up again when Khan Abdul Wali Khan claimed in the National Assembly that Bhutto has assigned Interior Home Minister Khan Abdul Qayyum Khan to assassinate him and 31 other political opponents. This created an uproar in the political atmosphere, which cooled down when Shaikh Mohammad Rashid, Deputy Leader of the House, assured the House that the People’s Party was prepared to cooperate in bringing democratic spirit and submit to the rule of law.

Were these moves initiated from one source or person or was there any particular circle that set the guidelines for the PPP, are questions that have long been discussed by political analysts, yet many observers believe that the absence of a coordinated working mechanism within the People’s Party was the cause of this situation.

shaikhaziz38@gmail.com

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