On November 30, 1967, addressing a packed YMCA hall on the Mall, Lahore, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto (ZAB) announced the launch of his party-it was named Pakistan People’s Party (PPP). After the formation of the All India Muslim League in 1906 at Decca, this was the first political party of the Muslims of the Indian Sub-Continent not launched by the establishment. It was a progressive left of center political outfit that promised “Roti, Kapra aur Makan” (Food, Clothing and Shelter) to the masses.

Established politicians did not take ZAB seriously and rejected his manifesto as too idealistic. In the very first free and fair elections of 1970 his party prevailed in the Western Wing by bagging 81 out of 138 national assembly seats. After the dismemberment of Quaid’s Pakistan ZAB assumed power of what was left of it, first as Martial Law Administrator, then President and finally as Prime Minister. He started of well. With the help of Comrades he established his ‘Awami Hukomat’ (People’s Rule). The period from 1971 to 1975 was era of idealism and democracy. The 1973 constitution was also promulgated during this time. Then realism set in, the old and obsolete political players started to surround the Quaid-e-Awam. An over confident Bhutto dissolved the assemblies and announced elections in 1977 ahead of schedule. Pakistan National Alliance (PNA) an opposition alliance of nine political parties was waiting in the wings to take him on.

ZAB was deposed, imprisoned, humiliated and finally sent to the gallows in April 1979. It was perhaps the biggest political tragedy of the country after the assassination of the first PM Nawabzada Liaquat Ali Khan. ZAB nominated his wife Nusrat Bhutto to be the Chairperson of the party who then took charge on April 04, 1979. She remained in this position till January 10, 1984 when Benazir Bhutto (BB) launched a soft coup and took control of the party.

Movement for Restoration of Democracy (MRD) was launched during this period and the party decided to boycott the 1985 party less elections. Leaving the field open paved the way for fresh entrants into politics, till today the country continues to suffer from this influx of the unwanted. BB returned from self exile in 1986 to a heroes’ welcome at Lahore. In 1987 she was married to Asif Ali Zardari. 1988 proved to be a year of change. Zia was eliminated and elections were held in which PPP under the leadership of BB emerged as the single largest party. It was a defining moment in the political history of Pakistan.

Instead of idealistic pursuits on which the party was launched BB decided to follow the pragmatic path and compromised with the forces of status-quo. Ghulam Ishaq Khan (GIK) remained President with the deadly 8th amendment. The portfolios of Finance and Foreign Affairs were also surrendered. Only Comrade Aitzaz Ahsan managed to become Interior Minister and Javed Jabbar was able to introduce major reforms in the Information Ministry which then resulted in the freedom of the print and electronic media.

Idealism of today, is the reality of tomorrow. Idealists drive change and make the world more live able. Status-quo can only ensure more of the same. The tragedy of the Bhutto’s should be an eye opener. They launched themselves on a platform of idealism and change but then flirted with realism and pragmatism, with disastrous consequences. ZAB, BB, Murtaza and Shahnawaz were eliminated in the prime of their lives while Nusrat had to endure their loss and became senile. Only Sanam survived in the entire Bhutto household mainly because she remained out of the political arena.

There is a popular saying, ‘One cannot run with the here and hunt with the hound’. As a student leader of the seventies when I met Wali Khan the leader of the opposition, he narrated the above folly of ZAB. In 2007 after the assassination of BB, ZAB’s grandson Bilawal Bhutto Zardari coined the phrase, ‘democracy is the best revenge’. To avenge the wrong one must know the enemy. Unfortunately politicians of our times have been involved in anti-people activities, which negates the basic premise of democracy.

Revenge against the people does not make sense. Abraham Lincoln rightly said ‘democracy is for the people, of the people, by the people. ZAB believed in, ‘Takat ka Sarchashma Awam Hain’ (People are the real source of power). Perhaps the 1985 party less elections was the biggest conspiracy against democracy. It created divisions and confusion. Zia wanted to prolong his misrule. The Majlis-e-Shoura reversed all the democratic gains of the seventies and the entire struggle of our generation went in vain. The era of romance and idealism was compromised by a few individuals. Today the comrades of change are disappointed and disillusioned. Who will revive them to bring back idealism in our politics?