The Rebel Road…

I know you’ve come to kill me. Shoot, coward, you’re only going to kill a man. – Ernesto Che Guevara

PPP’s new manifesto.

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PPP’s new manifesto

The new manifesto of the Pakistan People’s Party is the first such document, in relation to the January elections, to be revealed by any political party to date. The people of Pakistan vote, not on any consideration of what the party stands for – its political ideology or class background etc. – rather on petty considerations of lineage or family background. It is this new culture of issue-based politics that is fast becoming relevant to the situation in Pakistan where toadies abound and honest politicians are considered a contradiction in terms. Confronted by such highly skilled political adversaries, the Pakistan People’s Party has decided to play its original hand albeit with new and different cards. Just as Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto went up against the dictator of his times armed with the slogan of Roti, Kapra aur Makaan – a slogan which has come to define both the party’s powerbase and echoes of its unfulfilled promises – Ms. Bhutto has come out with her 5 Es, i.e. Employment, Education, Environment, Energy and Equality. This is no doubt a reflection of the new rising democratic undercurrent of the current-day resistance movement of the students, journalists and lawyers of Pakistan.

It would not be fair to dismiss the 5 E approach out of hand. Indeed the role of the Pakistan People’s Party in contemporary politics and its mantle as the largest political entity of Pakistan – as proved by the strong reception for Ms. Bhutto at Karachi airport – do raise hopes, however grudgingly, that this time around her promises will not go to waste. However, Ms. Bhutto’s 5 E approach — geared towards the sentimentalities of idealists – does need a reality check. As far as the first E – i.e. employment – is concerned, it is felt that Ms. Bhutto’s plan to accommodate 25 percent of the poorest jobless in public works is a hasty one, at best. With no long term planning into the reasons behind joblessness in Pakistan and the dearth of a two pronged strategy to increase large-scale industry coupled with small and medium enterprises (SMEs), such hasty plans are doomed to failure. Education has always figured prominently as far as Ms. Bhutto is concerned since she maintained a high emphasis on this subject in all her previous tenures. However, the problem of ‘ghost-schools’ and absenteeism is a daunting one. No education policy can work effectively without proper checks and balances in order to preempt such potential stumbling blocks. The energy sector, in Ms. Bhutto’s previous tenures, saw growth because of incentives to the private sector. This was marred, unfortunately, due to charges of corruption by the government and what can only be described as ‘excessive’ benefit to the private sector at the cost of public interest. One can only hope that this time around, with energy becoming such a serious issue for the country as well as the common man, the People’s Party leadership will take its responsibilities more seriously and conduct its transactions in a more transparent manner.

On the whole it must be said that this is a first step in a welcome direction – the culture of manifesto-based politics is one entirely lacking in the Pakistani political vista. The People’s Party, at least in coming out with its manifesto, has proved itself true to its claims of a democratic lineage. However, whether this manifesto will grow to become the party’s moving-force or just another pretty journal on the book shelf remains to be seen.


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