“Tough times don’t last, tough people do” - Robert Schuller

Since the inception of Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), social justice has been one of the hallmarks of the party leadership. From Shaheed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, Shaheed Benazir Bhutto, the baton of leadership and responsibility, today rests with the young Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari under the experienced guidance of President Asif Ali Zardari, who has remained firm to the vision and cause of democracy despite the consistent onslaught of baseless allegations.

In the last few years of the ongoing political hogwash, many questions have been raised at PPP’s performance especially in Sindh, in an organized attempt to discredit the party in its home ground, but the nefarious anti-PPP campaign has failed, mainly owing to the party’s performance and fulfilment of its promises made with its voters. Whether it is the development of health and education sectors, infrastructure or developing a long-neglected Thar, the PPP has outperformed all other political parties, and as a result it is the only party which has been the first choice of voters, and has been re-elected consecutively in Sindh, since 2008.

Despite the propaganda against the PPP leadership being peddled by certain quarters, it is no secret that in the last 10 years or so, the party has played a pivotal role in the development and progress of the country. In 2008, when PPP assumed power as the ruling party, the country was facing the heat of the ongoing global economic recession and the wave of rampant terrorism. At that time, under the visionary leadership of President Asif Ali Zardari, the party was able to steer the country away from an economic meltdown. It is also a fact that despite a decline in global trade, growth was witnessed in Pakistan’s imports and exports, a success which the successive governments of PML-N and PTI have been unable to achieve. President Zardari gave the slogan and vision of “Trade not Aid” for the first time, thereby setting the path for self-sustenance, by focusing on improving trade relations with the world, instead of simply relying on aid. These economic successes were achieved despite the humongous challenges of terrorism and energy shortfalls being at an all-time high.

It is also no coincidence that the first successful military operation ‘Rah-e-Rast’ was conducted under the PPP government, because the party and its leadership under President Asif Ali Zardari was able to unite the nation on this sensitive issue, and major gains were achieved.

Similarly, the PPP has achieved many monumental targets under the guidance of Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari in the last decade, in Sindh Province. These successes have been achieved in the domain of health, education, legislation to protect children, women and minorities, infrastructure development, and socio-economic development in Thar.

In the domain of health, the biggest success of PPP has been the establishment of hospitals for cardiovascular diseases in the province. One of the crown jewels of not only Sindh, but Pakistan is the National Institute of Cardiovascular Diseases (NICVD). In 2018, over 4,000 cardiac surgeries and 8,197 primary PCIs were done at the NICVD making it the world’s largest and the only health facility to have provided these services, free of charge. Not only this, NICVDs have been built in Larkana, Khairpur, Sukkur, Nawabshah, Hyderabad and other remote cities of interior Sindh in order to facilitate the poor people who can’t travel to other cities for treatment.

In addition, the provincial government of Sindh has improved its collaboration with other healthcare Centres like the Civil Trauma Center, SIUT and Indus Hospital, in its bid to assist and serve the people in an effective manner.

In the education sector, from 2013-2018, a number of reforms were introduced by the Sindh Government to overcome the existing gaps. Some of these reforms include ‘real-time monitoring, merit-based recruitment and training of teachers, a robust public-private partnership programme through Sindh Education Foundation (SEF), standardized testing of learning levels, and increased and improved funding, to name a few.’ From 2013 to 2018, nine cadet colleges and eight degree colleges have also been established in the province.

Tharparkar in Sindh has almost always been in news for wrong reasons. Despite extreme criticism and skepticism of the naysayers, PPP is the only party which has been able to have brought real ‘Tabdeeli’ in the remote part of Pakistan, which had been neglected for centuries. Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari took a personal interest in this regard. It was due to his determination to improve the lives of the locals that for the first time free food and better health care facilities were made available to the locals. In addition, a campus of the NED University of Engineering has been established to facilitate the people of Mirpur Khas district making higher education available at their doorstep which was a distinct dream of the local people.

Water shortage crisis has been rampant in Thar. In order to resolve it, 320 RO plants were erected by the Sindh government under the directives of the leadership to provide relief to the people. Most recently, with the establishment of the Engro Powergen Thar Limited’s (EPTL) lignite coal power plant in Thar, inaugurated by Chairman Bilawal Bhutto, a new era of development in the region will begin, as it will truly revolutionize the lives of locals.

Protection of children and ensuring the social, political and economic empowerment of women and minorities are some of the areas which have always been prioritized by the PPP leadership. Since its creation, the party has strived to protect and provide equal opportunities to them through legislation and policies aimed at their betterment. In fact, Shaheed Benazir Bhutto took a number of revolutionary steps to empower women. Taking her legacy forward, PPP implemented a number of social welfare programmes including Benazir Income Support Program (BISP). Since its inception in 2008, BISP continues to provide relief to the people irrespective of their cast, culture and creed.

Children are the future of the country. PPP has always called for ensuring their safety and protecting their childhood. In this regard, legislation to protect children like bill on the Child Marriage Restraint Act was introduced in the Senate of Pakistan in 2017 which reflected the progressive vision of PPP leadership especially Chairman Bilawal Bhutto. It was unanimously supported by civil society and child protection groups.

As a progressive party representing Pakistan, the PPP leadership has always called for direct participation of minorities in general elections. Making this vision a reality, for the first time in the history of the country, a female Senator from the Hindu Dalit Community was given representation by the party leadership owing to their vision of an inclusive Pakistan.

Similarly, the passage of the Sindh Hindu Marriage Bill 2016 into law by the previous Sindh Assembly is another feather in the cap of PPP and its leadership. The passing of this bill was a landmark event as previously there was no law governing Hindu marriages in the country since 1947. It was presented and passed under the directive of Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, as it is his vision to empower minorities.

The focus of the PPP in the last decade has also been on infrastructural development of Sindh. It is often wrongly assumed that there is no development of provincial infrastructure, but facts on ground prove this narrative wrong. Despite being in opposition, from 2013-2018, ‘twenty seven flyovers were built, also 864 KMs long roads were constructed that includes highways from Karachi to Thatta, Mir Pur Khas to Sanghar, Hyderabad to Mir Pur Khas, Badin to Islam Kot, Sukkur to Shikarpur and Larkana to Khairpur.’ A special importance was also laid on improving and developing infrastructure for Karachi. The list of PPP accomplishments is quite long, only some of the recent achievements have been mentioned here. 

Despite decades of political victimization, baseless accusations, media criticism and pressure, the allegiance of the people of Pakistan with the PPP cannot be severed. The only reason is because PPP actually fulfils its electoral promises, as opposed to the other parties, and has its deep roots within the people.

PPP’s politics and policies have always revolved around the common man. History is witness to how the party’s leaders have sacrificed their lives for the cause of democracy, instead of accepting political deals, in their bid to defend and protect the rights of the citizens of Pakistan. In a poem composed by Shaheed Benazir Bhutto she described her party as “a party of martyrs, a party of struggle, a party that serves, a party of the people” and she left for her people a message of hope, struggle and faith :

 “As history’s pendulum swung

The desert wind calls

Marvi calls

A timeless call

A call

The desert wind carries.

Children: Hear the desert wind

Hear it whisper

Have faith

We will win.”

 Today’s crisis is not new to the leadership. History bears witness how President Asif Ali Zardari has remained steadfast in the face of hardships, and braved all unfounded assertions only to emerge innocent. This time is no different. Undoubtedly, the trials and tribulations of President Zardari and Mohtarma Faryal Talpur will be over soon, and they will once again return to serve the people of Pakistan.

The writer is the President of Centre for Pakistan and Gulf Studies (CPGS) and member of the Senate Forum for Policy Research (SFPR) from 2018-2021. She has also served as a member Senate of Pakistan for the term 2012-2018.

Despite the propaganda against the PPP leadership being peddled by certain quarters, it is no secret that in the last 10 years or so, the party has played a pivotal role in the development and progress of the country