Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah has rightly said, “Democracy is in the blood of the Muslims, who look upon complete equality of mankind, and believe in fraternity, equality, and liberty.” At a time when elections are going to be held on 25 July 2018 in our country, we need to have a view of the current scene of our country through the prism of the saying and ponder over as which is the party that genuinely believes in cherished ideals aforementioned. Here comes the difference. There is a party that has suffered torture, imprisonment, forced exile and so on. Its party workers and leaders have rekindled the hopes in hearts of the masses in the darkest nights by giving sacrifices of everything – sacrificing even their lives.

A bird’s eye view upon the past would help us in understanding today’s Pakistan. Ironically Pakistan a country, which came into being in consequent upon the results of Elections 1946, could not hold direct elections until 1970 in which PPP got a clear-cut majority in the areas comprising present-day Pakistan. However, dream for a better tomorrow was shattered once again by General Zia’s coup d’état on 5 July 1977.

Zia’s coup gave a severe blow to the state institutions and thus inflicted an irreparable loss upon Pakistan. Zia conquered his own country by force against the people’s will, held the constitution in abeyance and suspended the civil liberties. The worst atrocity done by him on 5th July was nothing but the dethronement of an elected government and managed to hang an elected prime minister. Unfortunately, his co-conspirators were seated on the venerated chair of justice. It was the deposed PM Bhutto who inspired the people of Pakistan to live respectably in the comity of nations and laid the first brick for a welfare state in Pakistan.

We know that Pakistan came into existence through a democratic struggle of the Muslims in the subcontinent. They wanted to found a welfare state where they could create a society based on equality, and every citizen may enjoy social, religious, political and economic rights. Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah addressed the first constituent assembly and issued the guidelines for the newly-born state in these words on 11 August 1947:

“You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or any other place or worship in this State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed that has nothing to do with the business of the State.”

The Father of the nation emphasised the need for legislation and held that Pakistan would be a federal republic. Unfortunately, Pakistan could not be moulded in the light of his vision due to his untimely death.

In fact, Zulifqar Ali Bhutto started his historic struggle for the people of Pakistan in 1967 and founded Pakistan Peoples Party. In 1970, general elections were held on the basis of one person one vote. However, General Yahya delayed the transfer of power, hatched conspiracies and used violence as a tool. It led to the dismemberment of Pakistan. At this Yahya Khan had to hand over the government to Bhutto who started his journey to progress step by step. During his rule, the war-torn country got on its feet within years. In 1977, general elections were held. Invisible hand helped form the Pakistan National Alliance(PNA) but in vain. Meanwhile, invisible hands were manipulating the situation while having no qualm. At a time when negotiations between the government and the opposition were about to take a positive turn, martial law was imposed; a mystery that remains unsolved to this day. The problems which we witness today are the direct result of that martial law. Our centuries-old social values saw a decline during Zia rule. Hypocrisy, double-dealing, selfishness, greed and violence penetrated in the society and swelled unchecked.

During the dark rule of the dictator Zia, political workers, labour and other deprived classes of the society suffered a lot. On demanding their due rights, they underwent imprisonment, and many succumbed to the death in the gallows. Protests were crushed with iron hands. Thousands of people went to forced exile. Conservative and extremist forces became hands of the dictator to defeat the people and run the society on fundamentalist lines. Under the state patronage, a school of thought was promoted, trained and was armed with weapons in the name of strategic depth. Soon a network of extremism spread and took root across the country. Later, these extremists became the breeding ground for terrorism in the country. Every other mean was adopted to crush and destroy the people’s party. Despite all, the PPP workers did not surrender and decorated the history with their selfless sacrifices. The fact that the country is on the track of democracy today became possible because of the sacrifices that the workers of PPP rendered all these years. The PPP under the leadership of Mr Asif Ali Zardari restored the constitution of 1973.

Now 25th July, the election day is getting nearer. I advise all my readers to have a glance upon the manifesto of PPP which covers all aspects of state and society. In fact, it’s a recipe to bring this country out of the crisis. The PPP has named its 10th manifesto, ‘BB ka Waada Nibhaana Hai Pakistan Bachana Hai’ (We have to fulfil Benazir Bhutto’s promise by saving Pakistan). The vision mentioned in the preamble makes clear that the PPP wants to make Pakistan a peaceful, prosperous and progressive country.

No need to mention that Pakistan is still a safe place for some people enjoying life behind the towering concrete walls, but the majority is vulnerable to all types of threats. The elite class is too affluent to be affected by the economic fluctuations. However, they make only a small part of the society. The majority still lacks the essential amenities even after the 70 years of partition. PPP wants to provide with these facilities for the majority.

‘Human rights’ is the very basic and foundation of our manifesto. The PPP’s main concern is human rights. While unveiling the 10th manifesto of Pakistan Peoples Party, Chairman Mr Bilawal Bhutto committed that the PPP’s main concern was human rights and they would criminalise enforced disappearances and torture and ensure that Pakistan as a state honour international treaties and covenants. Chairman Bilawal has resolved to give rights to women who make half of our population. In the same way, women workforce makes a large part of our agricultural sector in the rural areas. History witnesses that no other party has empowered women more than the PPP.

Of all, the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) is the first political party to publicise its manifesto ahead of the July 25 general elections. It has knocked the door of the majority with the call to “come out and vote for us if you agree with us”. Keeping in view the current social and political scenario of Pakistan, the PPP thinks it’s better to move forward with its traditional slogan, ‘Roti, Kapra and Makan’, to its pledge for food security, guaranteed access to quality healthcare services, secure housing in sustainable and inclusive communities and social protection against all forms of external shocks.

With the new manifesto, Bilawal has shown his commitment to introduce the Jinnah’s vision (picked by his grandfather and bequeathed to his mother) far and wide in the country. PPP invites all intellectuals and the ilk to discuss issues instead of personalities so that issue based politics may prevail in Pakistan, and the problems of the people may be addressed for good. Furthermore, the establishment needs to learn a lesson from history. Mr Fatos Nano, an Albanian statesman, says that organising free and fair elections is more important than the result itself. This is the fact whose veracity one can feel in one’s bones. Democracy cannot find its way forward without knowing public opinion through free and fair elections.

 

The writer is a freelance columnist.