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People's Party of Pakistan (PPP)

Pakistan's civilian leaders, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in the 1970s and Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif in the 1990s all left much to be desired in the democracy department. Z.A. Bhutto was arguably more dictatorial than any Pakistani leader before or after, civilian or military. He established the Pakistan People's Party as a vehicle to advance his personal ambitions. He brooked no dissent from his party colleagues (establishing a precedent for his daughter), arrested political opponents and established a private paramilitary service answerable to him alone.

After touring the country and addressing gatherings in different cities, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto announced on 17 September 1967 that be had decided to form a new political party: Pakistan Peoples Party (also known as the People's Party of Pakistan). After this announcement he started another tour of the country to muster support for his proposed party.

The Pakistan Peoples Party was launched at its founding convention, held in Lahore between 30 November and 1 December 1967. At the same meeting, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was elected as its Chairman. Among the express goals for which the Party was formed were the establishment of an "egalitarian democracy" and the "application of socialistic ideas to realize economic and social justice." A more immediate task was to struggle against the military dictatorship at the height of its power when the PPP was formed.

Four hundred convention participants elected Zulfikar Ali Bhutto its chairman. Mr. J. A. Rahim, Mr. Abdul Waheed Kapar, Khurshid Hussan Mir, Sheikh Muhammad Rashid, Hayat Muhammad Sherpao, Amanullah Khan, Miraj Muhammad Khan, Haq Nawaz Gandapur, Dr. Mubasher Hussein, Begum Abad Ahmed, Begum Shaheen Ramay, Begum Anwar Ghalib, Malik Hamid Sarfraz, Ghazi Zaka ud din, Comrade Ghulam Ahmed, Rafiq Ahmed Bajwa, Syed Omer Khan, Mian Muhammad Iqbal and Mir Hameed Hussan attended this convention. Aslam Gurdaspuri recited his poem. A three coloured red, black and green flag was approved as party's flag.

The PPP came to power in December 1971 after the loss of East Pakistan, when Bhutto was sworn in as president and chief martial law administrator. On 20 December 1971 Bhutto came to Islamabad and met General Yahya. General Yahya resigned and handed over to Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. Bhutto took an oath as president and Chief Martial law administrator. On 10 August 1973 Bhutto resigned as President. Bhutto lifted martial law in April 1972 and in 1973 stepped down as president and became prime minister. The PPP did little to advance the first two tenets of its platform, Islam and democracy, but promoted socialism with a vengeance. Bhutto nationalized large-scale industries, insurance companies, and commercial banks, and he set up a number of public corporations to expand the role of the government in commerce, construction, and transportation. The heavy hand with which Bhutto and the PPP exerted their power aroused widespread resentment. Matters came to a head in 1977 when the PPP won 155 of the 200 seats in the National Assembly with 58 percent of the total votes cast. The Pakistan National Alliance (PNA), a coalition of nine opposition parties and with 35 percent of the votes, won only thirty-six seats. The PNA charged widespread electoral fraud, and the resulting PPP-PNA confrontation and the accompanying civil unrest precipitated the imposition of martial law. On 6 July 1977, the military removed Bhutto from power and arrested him, declared martial law, and suspended portions of the 1973 Constitution. Chief of Army Staff General Muhammad Zia ul-Haq became Chief Martial Law Administrator.

On 24 September 1978 Benazir Bhutto, daughter of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, announced in a worker's meeting at Laghari house that she was assuming party leadership as per her father's will. Subsequently she toured North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) and Punjab province. On 4 April 1979, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was executed around 2 AM before official time of hanging between the night of 3 and 4 April. His execution became controversial. It was the general belief that be had been tortured to death before hanging.

The survival of Bhutto's party after his execution in 1979 was facilitated by dynastic politics. His widow Nusrat and his daughter Benazir, led the party as cochairpersons. During martial law, the PPP joined with ten other parties in the Movement for the Restoration of Democracy (MRD) to pressure the Zia government to hold free elections under the 1973 constitution. Four of the MRD's component parties were members of the PNA, which had been formed to oppose the PPP in the 1977 elections. The PPP joined the MRD coalition, hoping the military would be prepared to negotiate with the MRD if it were part of a larger political alliance.

The MRD campaign launched in February 1981 appeared to gain momentum. In March 1981, however, a Pakistan International Airlines aircraft was hijacked by terrorists demanding the release of political prisoners. The hijacking was the work of an organization, Al-Zulfiqar, allegedly run by Bhutto's son, Murtaza. Although the PPP dissociated itself from the episode, the hijacking was a major setback for both the PPP and the MRD. Another MRD agitation failed in 1983.

On 17 August 1988 the C-130 plane carrying General Zia ul Haq, American ambassador Arnold Rafael, General Akhtar Abdul Rehman and many other high ranking army officers crashed, killing all on board. Elections were then held on party basis. On one side was an eight party alliance and on the other PPP. The PPP won 94 seats out of 207 and IJI won 54. Ghulam Mustafa Jotai, Pir Pagro and Muhammad Khan Junejo lost votes from their home constituency. As per normal practice the president should have invited PPP to from the new government, but he delayed it for two weeks to give time to IJI to muster the support of other groups. He was said to have met different leaders and tried to keep PPP away from power. Although the PPP emerged as the single largest party in the National Assembly as a result of the 1988 elections, it won a narrow plurality, and only with the support of the Refugee People's Movement (Muhajir Qaumi Mahaz or MQM) and other parties was it able to form a government. The President's effort failed and at last he asked PPP Co-Chairperson Benazir Bhutto to form a government. After eleven years the PPP had recaptured power. Benazir Bhutto took the oath as Prime Minister. She addressed the nation the same evening in which she announced her intention restore trade unions and student unions, provide better health facilities for people and opportunities of job for youth, and develop useful and pragmatic foreign policy. She also announced the repealing of laws prejudicial to women right. On President Ghulam Ishaq Khan dismissed the PPP goverment and dissolved the national and provincial assemblies. He announced his intention to hold fresh election on 24 October 1990.

After a troubled period in power, the PPP government was dismissed by President Ishaq Khan on 6 August 1990. The PPP was the principal member of the Pakistan Democratic Alliance (PDA), which lost the 1990 elections to the IJI. The PDA blamed its defeat on alleged tampering with the vote. The National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, an international observer team, did note irregularities in the election but declared that the ultimate outcome was in general accordance with the popular will.

In the October 1993 general elections that returned Benazir to power, the PPP won eighty-six of the 217 seats in the National Assembly, while Nawaz Sharif's PML-N won seventy-two. The PPP was successful in forming a coalition with other parties to control a block of 121 seats.

In the 1988 polls, the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) swept the entire province. Landlords, tribal chieftains and spiritual leaders such as the Jatois, Mahars and Pagaras lost to PPP-backed candidates from less-privileged backgrounds - virtual nobodies defeating established political leaders. The party fielded fresh faces from the middle class against members of powerful feudal families and won on the back of strong support from voters in rural Sindh. However, over the years, despite its remaining support among the lower classes, the party has evolved into one that promotes and colludes with the traditional political elite. So much so that by 2008 the list of candidates from both the PPP and anti-PPP camps read like a who's who of Sindh's feudal aristocracy. With few exceptions, the PPP has awarded party tickets to scions of feudal families. PPP officials say the reason for this shift is that candidates from middle and lower middle class backgrounds cannot afford the heavy cost of campaigning for elections, as opposed to members of feudal families with plenty of personal wealth to bankroll a run to the assemblies.

PPP leader Benazir Bhutto was in self-imposed exile in Dubai until 2007, facing a corruption conviction in Pakistan, but still exerted enormous influence over the party. Under the banner of the People's Party of Pakistan Parliamentarian (PPPP), and the leadership of Makhdoom Amin Fahim, the PPPP claimed to have strong support nationwide. At first, the PPPP looked to the rhetoric of "roti-kapra-makan" (bread-clothes-home), the trinity of socialist revolution, but this had a minimal impact. Instead the PPPP's greatest political mileage was coming from its opposition to General Musharraf and its promise to return to pure democracy. It was conscious of the fact that its voters would vote in reaction to the existing government or rival political parties rather than in response to any new promise. Their reaction in Punjab was against both factions of the PML and the religious parties. In Sindh the PPPP rural vote would be against the MQM muhajir vote and against Punjabi domination in general. Some leaders in Pakistan have referred to the tyranny of the IMF, since Benazir Bhutto as prime minister did not get on well with the IMF, but given her current policy of courting the West, this would remain at best muffled. The continuing scandals in the domain of Pakistan's intelligence agencies also gives ammunition to PPPP. Bhutto's charisma itself exercises the greatest pull and the Musharraf government's policy of keeping her out of the country had been said to attract sympathy votes for the PPPP. The verdict of time on the PPPP's past policy of doling out jobs was so clearly negative that in upcoming elections the party was not promising massive employment of supporters in the state sector. Accusations of pre-poll rigging was also a big election slogan for the PPPP.

In October 2007 Benazir Bhutto returned from exile to lead to the PPPP in elections planned for 2008. Placed under house arrest twice by the government of Pervez Musharraf during a period of Emergency Rule in November 2007, Bhutto actively campaigned as a moderate looking to restore democracy. As fate would have it Bhutto was assassinated during a political rally in December 2007, by alleged al-Qaeda linked militants opposed to her more moderate policies. Claims persist that government collusion might have occured, though there is no substantial evidence of this.

The planned elections were delayed but ultimately held in February of 2008. In these elections the PPPP won the most seats in Parlaiment of any individual party, though not a clear majority, requiring it to seek a coalition of other groups, such as the PML (N) in order to avoid working with pro-Musharraf parties. At the time the PPP was led by Bhutto's widower, Asif Ali Zardari, and in March 2008 selected Bhutto look-a-like Raza Gilani as Prime Minister.

The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and the Pakistan Peoples Party on 27 June 2008, won 3 and 2 five by election seats, respectively, to the national parliament. The 2 parties also won 19 of 23 provincial assembly seats where by-elections were held. The results will not affect the 18 February general election results in which Benazir Bhutto’s PPP won 123 seats in the 342-seat National Assembly and Sharif’s party came second with 91, while Pervez Musharraf’s party came third with 54 seats. Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) won 8 provincial assembly seats, while the PPP won 7 provincial seats.

The People's Party of Pakistan Sherpao (PPP-S) broke away from the PPP just prior to the 2002 general elections. At the October 2002 legislative elections, the PPP-S won 0.3% of the popular vote and 2 out of 272 elected members. In the 2008 general election, the party won only 1 seat in the National Assembly, in which the party leader Aftab Sherpao was successful. The party also won 6 provincial assembly seats, all in the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province.

The Party Structure


Central Executive Committee

Federal Council

Provincial Presidents and General Secretaries




Members National Assembly

Members Provincial Assemblies

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Page last modified: 10-07-2018 17:35:45 ZULU