Behind the election rhetoric

By Manzoor Chandio
Written on Dec 17, 2007

“WE will build a society in which the old values of greed and advancement will be replaced by a common concern for the welfare of the whole community.”
The election manifesto of the Pakistan People’s Party for the Jan 8 polls begins with these words from Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.
Besides repeating old party slogans (‘Islam is our faith’, ‘democracy is our politics’, ‘all power to the people’), it says the provinces will be given autonomy and due share in their resources, and that the Concurrent Legislative List will be abolished.
The manifesto, however, lacks strong commitment to empowering the poorest of the poor, the country’s women, minorities, peasants and labourers who figure prominently in the PPP’s vote bank.
It also deals only half-heartedly with the genuine issues and concerns of the people of Sindh and Balochistan, the two provinces in the federation of Pakistan that are caught in a particularly vicious downward spiral of poverty and unrest.
In the past four decades the people of Sindh have always voted for the PPP, rejecting the catchy slogans of the nationalist parties.
Benazir Bhutto, whose voice is respected across the province, could have worked for the empowerment of disadvantaged groups, but contrary to the ideals of her father Zulfikar Ali Bhutto she has always chosen to surround herself with big feudal lords and gaddi nashins.
The world has entered a new global paradigm. As the rest of the country advances into an era of modernisation, interior Sindh and Balochistan are still stuck in the morass of an age-old feudal system with big landlords, sardars and gaddi nashins ruling the roost.
They have assisted and condoned human rights abuses in their constituencies, proving to be major impediments to the empowerment of the people.
They have opposed tooth and nail any move to liberate the people from the shackles of poverty and illiteracy.
In keeping with past practice, big landlords representing local political dynasties and fiefdoms have been awarded tickets by the PPP.
They have always stood for the status quo. One cannot expect them to work in parliament and have laws enacted to protect people’s rights when they continue to oppress the people in the areas under their control.
Agriculture being the only mode of production, there is a need to diversify Sindh’s economy and give it a solid industrial base, as is happening in Punjab.
Over the years, Punjab has witnessed the emergence of industrial centres in cities such as Lahore, Faisalabad, Wazirabad, Gujrat, Gujranwala and Sialkot.
Electoral support for the PPP has always been overwhelming in Sindh, but the party has never mentioned in its manifestos the need for industries in Hyderabad, Sukkur, Larkana, Nawabshah and Mirpurkhas.
Thus alone can the agro-based society of Sindh be transformed into an industrial one.
A look at the employment pattern in federal government institutions is enough to show how small is the representation of the people of Sindh and Balochistan.
The Pakistan Army, which also enjoys considerable influence in national decision-making, has been dubbed the Punjab army because it does not have many members from the smaller provinces.The same is the case with all other services, be they the diplomatic corps, the civil bureaucracy or the police.
This aberration can be rectified only by diversifying the leadership. How can this be done?
By allowing a middle class to emerge and inducting people from different walks of life into politics.
Over the years, the major political parties have perpetuated the predominance of the feudals by awarding party tickets to people from that class.
The reason: the feudal landlord is sure to win. The persistence of this pattern has not only promoted self-interested individuals but also proved a stumbling block to the advancement of rural society.
Democracy can only be strengthened by dismantling the feudal system.
There is pressing need for introducing equal opportunity and affirmative action programmes to empower the people in the rural areas.
Thus alone will they be in a position to defeat the old institutions like jagirdari and gaddi nasheeni.
Until and unless genuine representatives of the people are encouraged to enter the assemblies, and until the public has a role in shaping a leadership that can identify with the people and understand their problems, the woes of peasants and labourers from Sindh and Balochistan will remain unmitigated.

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