‘BB ka wada nibhana hai Pakistan bachana hai’

“We represent the underprivileged, the

peasants, women, young people, the minorities, all those who have been neglected by elite

governments”: Mohtarma Shaheed Benazir

Bhutto, 9th September 2007

 

Peace, Progress and Prosperity – these are the words which set the right tone for Pakistan Peoples’ Party (PPP) election manifesto and intention for the upcoming July 2018 elections. Ever-since appearing on the national horizon, PPP has been the flagbearer of championing rights of the downtrodden, protecting the marginalized communities and empowering the underprivileged classes. As the founder of the PPP, Shaheed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto for the first time introduced the common people to the concept of their basic rights with the still relevant slogan of ‘Roti, Kapra aur Makaan’. He empowered them with the knowledge that the government existed to facilitate the people, instead of the other way around. He was the first national leader to instill among people the confidence and belief that they were the true epicenter of power in the country.

Shaheed Benazir Bhutto took the message further and spent her lifetime striving for a democratic, prosperous, tolerant, peaceful and egalitarian Pakistan. Today, this baton is being carried on forward with grace and dignity by her son and Chairman PPP, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari.

Not only did PPP became the first mainstream party to present its manifesto to the people, it did so by focusing on the program of social justice – something which has always been central to the party’s ideology. Chairman Bilawal Bhutto’s unwavering support and clear conviction and belief in social welfare program as reflective in the election manifesto is undoubtedly reflective of the party’s founding fathers vision, and desire to empower the masses i.e. socially, economically and constitutionally.

As illustrated by the PPP’s 2018 election manifesto, the dynamic and diligent young leader has taken on the unfinished agenda of peace and prosperity in the country with a focus on freeing people from hunger and helplessness, opening new avenues with a special emphasis on youth, guaranteeing one year internship program to control unemployment, calling to establish a system of economic justice, strengthening democracy, mainstreaming women, empowering minorities, and ensuring rights and securing peace for our state and people. It would not be wrong to say that Chairman Bilawal represents the continuity of Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto’s legacy – and the continuity of the journey by the nation that began with Shaheed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto.

PPP is the only party of the federation which can truly claim to be led by a Chairman (Bilawal Bhutto Zardari) who belongs to the youth, understands the prospects and challenges of the new age, and is better equipped at dealing with them. Undoubtedly, actions speak louder than words and we have witnessed that PPP under Chairman Bilawal is already ahead on his agenda of empowering minorities and mainstreaming women than his contemporaries. Nominating the first ever Hindu female Senator – Ms Krishna Kumari Kohli from Sindh, nominating female candidates to contest elections in general elections are commendable steps in the long list of commitments being upheld by the PPP leadership in this regard. In this list of empowering minorities is the Sindh Hindu Marriage Act, 2016 as well, which the first law in the country which provides a legal cover to marriages of the Hindu community. We also saw an increase of 383 percent in the budget allocated to the minorities in Sindh which increased from Rs 175.6 million in 2013-14 to Rs 848.324 million for 2018-19.

Similarly, the success of the Benazir Income Support Program (BISP), a poverty alleviation program has delivered PPP’s pledge to empower women and uplift the underprivileged. Despite initial reservations, the BISP program is successfully running after a decade of its inauguration, and has been lauded nationally and internationally.

In the last five years, PPP has increased the health budget 174 percent from Rs 36.4bn in 2013-14 to Rs 99.537bn in 2018-19. The party has made significant progress in the Sindh province. Noteworthy are the state of the art, National Institute of Cardiovascular Diseases (NICVD), Sukkur chapter, Liver and Kidney Transplant Center in Khairpur, and Cyberknife Robotic Radiosurgery, JPMC among others which are providing free health services in Sindh. Similarly, PPP’s role in initiating development projects in the underprivileged and resource deficient area like Tharparkar has been truly unprecedented, and it would not be wrong to say has been a direct result of Chairman Bilawal Bhutto’s personal attention and focus towards the area.

What is noteworthy in the PPP’s socially progressive 2018 manifesto is the introduction of the ‘Benazir Kissan Cards’ under ‘Zarai Inquilab’. Measures to register both male and female farmers by issuing them these cards will help to streamline all services, subsidies, and engagements of the governments with the agricultural community which constitute more than 40 percent of our total population. Furthermore, it will help in ensuring food security and eradicating hunger.

Like PPP’s previous manifestos, a special mention of the dangers posed to the country vis-à-vis climate change and water scarcity have been dealt in detail. PPP has vowed to formulate a ‘National Action Plan’ to combat climate change. The party has also declared to pass a ‘Pakistan Climate Change Act’ along with a 10-year National Strategic Action plan for Parliamentary debate and approval within first 100 days, if it comes into power which is something no other party has outlined or announced until now. The manifesto also calls for internationalizing the water terrorism by India, and raising this issue which threatens the future of our country on international forums.

PPP has been critical of the previous government’s handling of the foreign policy, and has time and again mentioned the shortcomings. In the manifesto, PPP has categorically emphasized on the need for a consistent dialogue with our neighbours and all global powers for an effective solution to regional and global problems. 21st century challenges recognize no borders. New challenges and sophisticated adversaries demand a holistic approach which requires out of the box solutions instead of the conventional ones.

What sets the PPP’s manifesto apart is the inclusion of the establishment of a ‘Truth and Reconciliation Commission in the Post Conflict Zones’. This step will assist in ascertaining the mistakes of history and rectify from making similar ones in future. Furthermore, it will help to evolve a consensus in resolving national issues and facilitate in curbing any unconstitutional moves in future.

PPP’s politics and policies have always revolved around the common man as the last line of the party’s manifesto calls to the people to, “come out and be counted because you matter”, irrespective of whether they will vote for PPP or not, which is again reflective of the democratic ideals and history the party carries forward with itself.

Today the baton with all its expectations and responsibilities is carried forward under the able leadership of Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari with the experience of former President Asif Ali Zardari acting as the guiding force. Elections in Pakistan like elsewhere are unpredictable to say the least, but what is indisputable is the fact that post the July 25thelections, Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari will truly emerge as a national leader on Pakistan’s landscape for the next many decades to come.

 

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