LAHORE - Pakistan People’s Party is celebrating its 49th foundation day on Wednesday (today), this time with great fanfare, making it an occasion of festivities and also of stock taking, reorganisation and soul searching.

During the seven days-long celebrations, the party workers will have the opportunity to give vent to their feelings on party matters.  

Party spokesperson Senator Farhatullah Babar said that Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari will be participating in the week-long celebrations in Bialwal House Lahore and also meeting the workers drawn from all provinces to further the process of completing the organisational structures at the divisional and district levels throughout the country.

A day before the foundation day, party’s Co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari confirmed the news that Bilawal Bhutto would be leading the democratic struggle from the platform of Parliament as well to further the realisation of democratic aspirations of the people.

Ever since the assassination of its leader Benazir Bhutto, the PPP has witnessed a sharp decline in its popularity especially in Punjab. Party’s abysmal performance in the 2013 general elections and later in the local bodies’ polls in Punjab is reflective of the deterioration it has gone through over the years.

It was a party of resistance under its founding chairman ZA Bhutto and retained this character during the dictatorship of General Ziaul Haq. But gradually it became a party of reconciliation during the last years of Benazir Bhutto. She signed a controversial NRO with a dictator only to return to power without getting into the hassle of a democratic struggle once a hallmark of this party.

The PPP won 2008 elections but had to make a coalition government in the Centre with the support of PML-N, MQM, ANP, JUI-F and later the PML-Q after the PML-N left the coalition.

Despite being in power for five years, the party witnessed an invisible decay from deep inside which manifested in complete rout of the PPP in 2013 elections. It got only three National Assembly seats out of total 148 from Punjab and seven provincial seats.

At present, the party of Bhuttos is facing a number of challenges, the most important one being its reorganisation in Punjab, the most populous province which decides which party will form the government at the centre. At a time when PPP leadership is struggling to revive the party in this province it no longer enjoys the support of influential political families from this province.

Many politicians have either left the PPP or have become indifferent since the assassination of Benazir Bhutto in December 2007. Most of them have joined the PTI. Not only this, the party has also lost several of its diehard workers. They left because they had numerous complaints against the new leadership.

Nahid Khan and Safdar Abbasi have formed their own party with the nomenclature of PPP (workers). Around 17 PPP MNAs from Punjab who left the party after 2002 elections never rejoined their parent party. They formed their own group, PPP (Patriots), when Benazir Bhutto, who was in exile at that time, refused to lend her party MNAs to General Musharraf to form a coalition government along with the PML-Q.

The PPP has ceded much of its political space to the PTI. Politicians like Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Syeda Abida Hussain, Sardar Assef Ahmad Ali, Khalid Ahmad Khan Kharral, Sardar Muhammad Hussain Dogar, Mirza Nasir Baig, Jaffar Leghari, Moulana Hamid Saeed Kazmi, Sahibzada Muhammad Gazain Abbasi, Munawar Hayat Abbasi, Mian Riaz Hussain Pirzada, Amjad Dasti, Muhammad Ashraf Khan Sohna, Samsam Bukhari, Niaz Jhakkar and Sahibzada Nazir Sultan and many others have left the party only in the last few years. 

The PPP, once considered a party which was against the status quo, has lost this character also. After the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, the PPP cadres gradually developed a feeling that their party was deviating from the basic principle which served as the very basis of its foundation. These were: “Islam is our faith, democracy is our politics, socialism is our economy and all power to the people”. Apart from this, the PP had also promised to eliminate feudalism to protect the interests of peasantry. Though ZA Bhutto introduced land reforms but these were not implemented in letter and spirit.

Also, it seems to have dissociated itself from the left-wing politics, a political philosophy it adhered to for long and came to be known as the single largest party in Pakistan with liberal outlook. Party Chairman Asif Ali Zardari thinks that it is the ideology of 1960’s, 70’s and the 80’s which was no longer relevant in the present day politics. Senior party leader however believe the left-wing politics could be one of the tools to activate the party cadres and amass support from the public at large.

Nonetheless, party insiders say that despite the fact that party head was not inclined to revival of left wing politics as a means to win elections, the PPP might keep its posture of being a leftist party but in actual terms it might not pursue this ideology.