The assumption of power by the Pakistan People’s Party also marked the beginning of its organizational decline. As its Chairman told this writer, the problem of party organization had a much lower priority than the more pressing problems of organizing a government, instituting reforms and negotiating a post-war modus vivendi with a victorious India–while the latter held some 90,000 Pakistani civilians and military prisoners. The slide towards disorganization was enhanced by the absorption of the top PPP leadership into the central and provincial governments at the ministerial level and above, intra- party competition for patronage, and new waves of ‘lateral entrants’. Party affairs were either neglected or manipulated through client networks, leaving party units in disarray. Appointments to governorships, cabinets and parliamentary secretaryships in 1972 confirmed the dominance of the central cell in the party. Their virtual monopoly on patronage, together with their use of parallel party organizations, drained substantial strength away from the party cell. Some left socialists in the PPP were soon found to be accommodating with the new party bosses. Amanullah Khan, for example, emerged as Press Secretary to Governor Khar. The decline of the party cell did not, however, also lead to a decline in internal tensions in the party, but only shifted them into central cell grouping. Throughout 1972, cracks in the central cell became more visible, as vertical faction leaders maneuvered and competed for influence. The internal structure of the party shifted from one of a dominant central- cell party cell cleavage to one of fluid permutations of factional groups- the ‘Khar Group,’ the ‘Rashid Group,’ the ‘Ramay Group,’ the ‘Meer Group,’ etc. in the first six months of 1972 six major clashes occurred in Punjab between groups of PPP workers, in which party men were seriously injured or firearms were set off. All of these, including the stadium firing incident at Lahore in March and the clash at Shalimar in June, were traceable to interparty factional maneuverings. Inter-party clashes would become a regular feature of party affairs, particularly during periods when cabinet changes were made. This inability to resolve peacefully its own internal conflicts was an important indication of profound organizational weaknesses in the PPP.
The period between 20 December 1971 and 10 March 1974 was not a happy one for the Punjab PPP left wing. This period marked the ascendancy in Punjab of Ghulam Mustafa Khar, first as Governor and then as Chief Minister- the latter from 11 November 1973 to 10 March 1974. Under the direction of Bhutto, Khar fixed on Punjab a Regime that, in the areas of press and police controls and ghundagardi (‘goonism’), had much more in common with the Ayub/Kalabagh Regime than with the promises made in the PPP Manifesto. The police firing on striking workers at SITE in June 1972 and at Landhi/Korangi in October, and the wholesale arrest of left labour leaders in Punjab, ended the PPP alliance with the new left labour movement. It also severely undercut PPP leaders like Mairaj Muhammad Khan, whose position in the party became increasingly untenable-unless, of course they were willing to cut themselves off from their own social constituency. Sensing Mairaj’s weakness on this score, as well on his failure, as a Minister of State, to turn the Hashtnagar Peasant Movement in the NWFP into a pro-PPP battering ram against the NAP-W, the PPP right wing undertook a concerted press campaign to force Mairaj out of the party. Soon after this, Mairaj and other PPP left elements, including the PPP (Revolutionary Front)- representing Abdul Khaliq Khan (MNA from Mardan) and Mukhtar Rana- the Taj Langah Group and the Manifesto Group (Mian M.A. Kasuri), decided to boycott the All-Pakistan PPP Convention in Rawalpindi on 30 November and 1 December 1972. Even had the leaders wanted to attend, their supporters would have been excluded since delegate certification was in the hands of Bhutto loyalists–Khar in Punjab, Mumtaz Ali Bhutto (Sindh Chief Minister) in Sindh, Raisani in Balochistan and Sherpao in NWFP. In the end, Sheikh Rashid was able to ‘beg’ a few hundred delegate passes (out of 1,700 for Punjab) from Khar to give the left wing a small representation at the convention. Bhutto used the Rawalpindi PPP Convention to denounce the PPP left wing and the Mainfesto Group. Individuals like Mairaj, Rasul Baksh Ralpur, Sheikh Rashid and M.A. Kasuri- the latter had recently resigned as Minister for law and Parliamentary Affairs in protest at Bhutto’s attempt to bring in a presidential structure disguised in parliamentary clothing- came in for specific criticisms. The PPP Chairman re-emphasized that Islamic Socialism, not abstract socialism or communism, was the ideology of the PPP. His government, he insisted would follow a middling course of reform aimed at the establishment of social democracy and a mixed economy. Bhutto refused to discuss motions from the left on party organization, threatening to resign the PPP chairmanship if the left continued to demand the parliamentary and party offices be separated.
After the Rawalpindi convention, amid rumours of a Bhutto-Maududi meeting, the left prepared to go underground, anticipating a massive shift to the right by the PPP and a program against left cadres. In the end, although the PPP-JI contacts were crucial to finalizing a constitutional settlement in 1973, a PPP-JI alliance was out of the question. Not only were the enmities too deep, but PPP reforms went against the interests of Jama’at-I-Islami support groups. Nevertheless the apprehensions of the PPP left revealed how much had Bhutto come to be feared and distrusted within one wing of his own party. Many leftist cadres departed from the PPP at this time, pulling back into journalism, political groups like the Young People’s Front, and labour organizations like Muttahida Mazdur Mahaz. Mairaj Muhammad Khan shortly resigned his Ministership and stayed on the fringes of the party for another year until 13 December 1973 when he bade farewell to a party he now described as a ‘degenerated form of ‘Ayub’s Convention League’. Those who stayed on in the PPP retreated to the periphery or joined factional groupings around Sheikh Rashid, Taj Langah and K.H. Meer. But this was not the end of the line for party cell remnants. Factional shifts and the growing unpopularity of the Khar Regime in Punjab enabled them to play a ‘comeback’ role in the Muhasaba (‘Accountability’) committees that sprang up, on an ad hoc basis, in 1973 and 1974 in many district and city PPP organizations. These committees denounced the oppressive actions of the Khar Government, exposed widespread corruption among Khar-appointed party officeholders, and demanded the implementation of the party manifesto. They were an important element underlying the pressures that forced Khar from office in March 1974. The fall of Khar renewed the claims of the Punjab left and gave them something of a ‘junior role’ in the post-Khar factional permutation in the Punjab PPP, but a revival of their original dominance of the Punjab PPP was out of the question.
We have given considerable attention to the decline of the PPP leftwing for two important reasons. First, for what it was worth, the left, or party cell, group had carried the major grass roots organizing effort in the PPP and its decline had a concomitantly negative impact on the quality of party organization. Second, the weakness of the left gave Bhutto and the PPP ‘politicals’ their opening to the right in Punjabi politics, a factor that also had a major impact on party organization, particularly on the character of its social base. Undeniably, the left in Punjab (and Pakistan) had its own internal weaknesses. The ‘old left’ leadership, a collection of labour organizers and ‘drawing room’ socialists beset with doctrinal and personal conflicts had largely stayed out of PPP and remained potent foci for collections of disenchanted PPP cadres. The PPP left had shown itself to be primarily urban centered. Its rural support base, while real enough, was only fitfully organized. Where it was organized, its Kisan Committees and Kisan Forces proved unable to stem the quiet ‘counter revolution’ pursued after the elections by the rural notables, district bureaucrats and thanadars. After the transfer of power, the left was unable to press Bhutto to go beyond a minimal enactment of the PPP land reform proposals. In the cities, the social base of th left was largely confined to the transient student community, the new labour organizations whose leaders were harshly treated by the PPP Regime, and the poorest of the poor, the rural-to-urban migrants. But, beyond this, perhaps the greatest weakness of the PPP left was the unpreparedness of most Punjabis to accept the ideological ramifications of he PPP program. They wanted the implementation of the PPP program and voted for systemic change in the sense that the PPP promised to end elite monopoly of the levers of political power and economic opportunity. At the same, however, for many pro-PPP Punjabis it was the image of Bhutto, not ideological justifications, that carried the PPP program. Hence, even the far left in the PPP spectrum never directed its criticisms at Bhutto, only at those around him.
But having said this, it is also clear that the left, for all its inherent shortcomings, was further weakened by actions and policies supported by Bhutto from his singular position as PPP Chairman. Time after time, as we have seen in this study, Bhutto refused to implement schemes to strengthen party organization. This failure to ground the PPP on a permanent organizational base is one of the intriguing questions of recent Punjabi (and Pakistan) history. Possibly it was simply not perceived in the pre-power years as being crucial. These were heady times for Bhutto. His charisma was in full flower in Punjab and it may well be that he thought it always would be, that he could always ‘go back to the people,’ and that this was sufficient leverage with which to bargain with the established power groups and to pursue his ‘internal united front strategy’ of party organization. Further Bhutto always placed great emphasis on his genius for political maneuver. We would not expect him to incline towards the formation of an institution that would inevitably work to limit his power and his scope for action. Scope for maneuver was something Bhutto had always felt he needed- prior to the elections because he was skeptical of a PPP victory, after the elections because he knew he would receive power only at the hands of the military oligarchs and after gaining power because of the political and military consequences of the civil war and his unwilling,ingress to be pushed too far left by the forces he had helped to arouse.
The discomfiture of the party left was anything but assuaged by the new wave of elite entrants into the PPP. More than at any other time, the period after the transfer of power saw much honouring of that long established principle of Punjabi politics: ‘jera jita, oda nal’ (‘who wins, be with him,’ or, ‘if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em’). This trend was strongest in the rural areas, where notable and gentry zamindars continued to join the PPP. By end of 1974, the post-transfer of power entrants included the Legharis and Khosas of Dera Ghazi Khan; the Pirachas, the Tiwanas, Bandials and Qureshis of Sargodha; various of the Bukhari Sayyid lineages (Pir Mahal, Kuranga and Shah Jiwana); the Daultanas, the Khakwanis and Gilanis of Multan; the Kharrals of the Ravi river rain in Lyallpur; the Pirs of Makkhad, Manki Sharif and Taunsa Sharif; the Korejas of Liaquatpur (Rahim yar Khan); the Tammans and Jodhras of Campbellpore; as well as civil service moguls like Aziz Ahmad and Malik Khuda Baksh Bucha. The entry of the notables, and of lesser gentry and rassagiri elements, was undoubtedly a protective reaction, for access to the power system has always been crucial to the gaining and holding of land and wealth in Punjab. For the most part, in return for lip service to the PPP Manifesto and an expression of loyalty to Bhutto, they found easy entry into the PPP. Though their traditional authority has been challenged, often successfully, in the 1970 elections, the notable and gentry groups soon proved their residual authority to be remarkably resilient. They still had the best access to the district and provincial bureaucracies, often through personal connections with relatives and school chums in the upper bureaucracy, and could play the game of ‘brokerage’ far more effectively–as I witnessed on several occasions–than PPP office holders who had no social access to elite circles. They used those contacts to rebuild their influence, getting local petitioners jobs, transfers, promotions, more canal water, agricultural loans, fertilizer, tube well connections etc. Moreover biraderi and other parochial influences had begun to re-emerge as factors in party and cabinet making politics, as well as in by-election strategies (e.g., in the Narowal and Chak Jumra by-elections in 1973). Once this began to happen, the landed classes their skills honed by long experience in parochial politics, proved adept at expanding their influence. By 1974, the names of he old local notables had begun to emerge in the lists of local ( Tehsil) PPP officeholders, as well as on the District Councils of the People’s Works Program (PWP), the successor to the Rural Works Program and the major channel of development funds to the local level. By mid-1975, ashrafi notables held the Secretary-Generalship of the Punjab PPP (Sayyid Nasir Ali Shah), the Punjab Chief Ministership (Nawab Sadiq Hussain Qureshi) and the Punjab governorship (Sadiq Muhammad Khan, Amir of Bahawalpur). Finally, in late 1976, the notables virtually controlled the ticketing politics for the 1977 elections within the Punjab PPP. The list of PPP candidates reads like a ‘who’s who’ of the families that dominated electoral politics in Punjab from 1920 to 1958.
It is ironic that the hand of the notables first showed its strength inside the PPP in the fall of the Khar cabinet in March 1974. Himself from a gentry (Rajput, zaildari) family, Khar had been regarded as the representative in the PPP of the Punjab zamindariat. Indeed his office as the Punjab party’s Secretary-General ( held until September 1973) had been the door through which many landed families had entered the PPP. Yet by the beginning of 1974, Khar’s iron grip on Punjab had alienated important social groups, including the landed notables. Acting under Bhutto’s dictate to hold Punjab ‘in line’ the Khar Regime had slipped from authoritarianism into acts of terror. The latter, directed at opponents both within and without the PPP, included political killings, false cases, threats delivered to PPP legislators, kidnappings, the wreckage of property of opponents and violent attacks on the protest processions of Christians, students, workers, the High Court lawyers, and opposition parties. These acts together with a raging inflation- in part the result the PPP government’s attempts to satisfy its numerous constituencies- and the general decline in standards- moral, education, familial, institutional, and law and order,- rapidly ate away at the PPPs popularity in the urban areas. By mid-1973, based on my inquiries with a number of strategically-placed individuals in the old city of Lahore, including PPP officeholders, I would not have bet against Asghar Khan in a fair, head-to-head election with Bhutto.
It was not long before urban-based PPP politicians like Hanif Ramay, Meraj Khalid and Dr. Mubashar Hasan began to combine against Khar. They were aided in their intrigues by the landed notables in the PPP, such as M.K. Khakwanis, MPA, and Begum Fakhar Imam (Sayyida Abida Hussain), MPA. The former represented the Multan notables, who saw Khar as a country-bred upstart, resented the centralization of all the stings of patronage in his hands, an feared his attempts to turn the districts of Multan Muzaffargarh and Dera Ghazi Khan into his own politician base. After the new constitution came into force on 15 August 1973, the anti-Khar coalition attempted to invigorate the Punjab Chief Ministership as the centre of executive authority in the province and to relegate to Governship to its constitutionally-prescribed ceremonial status. Backed by Bhutto, Khar refused to relinquish executive authority, but under pressure from the Punjab Assembly he belatedly ‘stepped down’ to the Chief Ministership, a position which he held for four months(11 November 1973 to 10 March 1974). Khar was a complete failure as a parliamentary leader, his brand of thanadari was completely alien to legislative politics. The growing confusion in Punjab emboldened the anti-Khar coalition to present a document to Bhutto, which detailed Khar’s abuses of office and charged him with massive corruption. But, more than this, they understood that Khar held the Chief Ministership, not out of any intrinsic merit of his own, but solely because of his close personal friendship with Bhutto. It was in this relationship that they planted the seeds of distrust. They accused Khar of acting against Bhutto’s supporters in Punjab and of attempting to turn the province into his own power base, to be held against all comers.
Bhutto could afford to jettison Khar. The major reforms-land, administrative, military command structure and nationalizations-industries, banks, private colleges– had been accomplished, the new constitution was in force, and the Federal Security Force, along with a new set of internal intelligence bodies, was in place. The fall of Khar ended the first phase of the PPP government of Punjab. Bhutto turned away from the tactic of acting to control Punjab through a single cohort, to one of balancing off different factions. Khar was not completely finished, however, as the pro-One Unit speech at Lyallpur and the Rabwah incident showed. He would again hold the Punjab Governship (14 March 1975 to 31 July 1975), before leaving the party in August 1975. Hanif Ramay was th new Chief Minister(13 March 1974 to 11 July 1975). The most effective PPP parliamentarian to hold such a position, Ramay recovered for the PPP some the ground lost by Khar and produced some of the most important legislation of the PPP period. But, as Bhutto realized, Ramay’s primary weakness waa the narrowness of his urban political base. Possibly given some time, Ramay might have succeeded in his attempt to build himself up as th leader of the Punjab Arains and go down from there to reconstiute the old Mamdot coalition. As it were, Bhutto surrounded Ramay with notables, bureaucrats and police officers who had strong establishment loyalties. Nawab Sadiq Hussain Qureshi was Punjab governor, Fateh Khan Bandial was made Chief Secretary, M.A.K. Choudhury (ex- inspector-General of Police) became Additional Chief Secretary, Col.(Retd) Muhammad Sharif was made Ramay’s Special Assistant, and Sardar Hayat Muhammad Khan Tamman was appointed his Polical Adviser. Further, concomitantly with the cabinet change came the transfer of all the District Commissioners and Superintendants of Police of all the districts of Multan division. All the new D.Cs were men who had entered the bureaucracy as CSPs and who either came from rural notable families or were married into them.
In the end, th Ramay administration was a transitional one. The shift to a greater dependence on the bureaucracy was everywhere evident. Even before Ramay became Chief Minister, the bureaucracy had taken over the crucial functions of formulating policy and drafting legislation–if, indeed, it had even relinquished these functions. The failure of he PPP on this score was the result of the inexperience of the pP Punjab Assembly Party, their preoccupation with factional maneuverings, patronage and perquisites, and th failure of Khar as a parliamentary leader. Most of the original PPP legislation, as one PPP MPA remarked to this writer, was ‘sloppy, ill-conceived and poorly implemented.’ Certainly, part of Ramay’s success as a parliamentary leader stemmed from his willingness to work with the bureaucracy. There were, during the middle Bhutto years, any indications of the revival of bureaucratic authority. These included the bureaucracy’s tutelary role in the PWP, where district and tehsil level bureaucrats soon combined with PPP MNAs and MPAs to exclude party officeholders from any role in the program. But, more than this, the bureaucracy penetrated the party itself. They took over the responsibility for organizing Bhutto’s district tours and audiences (katcheries), leaving the party leaders responsible only for amassing large crowds, a function performed through a process resembling subinfeudation. More importantly, bureaucrats- cynically called ‘Bhuttocrats’- began to mediate disputes in the party and control the channels of patronage and communication between party groups and the Chairman. The latter functions were accomplished by employing OSDs-Officers on Special Duty,- a collection of young pro-Bhutto bureaucrats and lateral entrants attached to a party Affairs Office in the Prime Minister’s Secretariat.
Two other developments during 1974 require at least a mention. One of these was the removal of Dr. Mubashar Hasan from the powerful Central Ministry of Finance. This was seen as a gesture to the industrialists and an indication that even the ‘Third Worlders’ in the PPP were coming under pressure from the old establishment. The other development was the removal of J. A. Rahim from both his cabinet mand party positions in July. The circumstances of this removal shocked all who came to know of it. Believing himself to have been insulted by Rahim–feelings his years, Rahim had left the Prime Minister’s House before a delayed dinner for party leaders could be served,-Bhutto angrily ordered Rahim’s dismissal. The orders were served on Rahim by the FSF in the early hours of the morning and the old gentleman and his son were badly beaten during the process. The removal of Rahim marked a watershed for the PPP. Although not a great organizer, Rabim was a co founder, with Bhutto, of the PPP. He was one of the few men around Bhutto who were neither dazzled by the PPP leader nor corrupted by power. Anything but a sycophant, he had been a constant spokesman in the PPP for maintaining the ideological and organizational integrity of the party, hoping that it could oversee the major policy functions of the government. For his part, Ramay held onto his political position for a year after Rahim’s departure. In July 1975, he moved on to the Senate, leaving the Punjab Chief Ministership to Nawab Sadiq Hussain Qureshi, who held the post until the 1977 elections. Within weeks he was out of the party and joined in an alliance with Khar. The latter entered the Lahore-VI by -election (PP-76 Lahore VI)-Ramay’s old seat-against Sher Muhammad Bhatti, the official PPP candidate, this election, like virtually all the by-elections held during the PPP’s rule, showed the telltale signs of rigging. This does not mean that Khar would have won had the election been fair, but it made his defeat an ‘official’ certainty. Ramay soon joined a reconstituted Muslim League-virtually all of the various league MNAs and MPAs had joined the PPP after the constitutional settlement of the Ahmadiya question–and eventually went to prison, convicted on contrived charges.
His departure from the PPP removed another stone from the original foundation of a party that was rapidly moving to the right and, in the process changing its social make-up. In many ways, the progressive deterioration of the PPP, the dominant party in Punjab after 1971, produced the experience of the Muslim League after 1947. Both periods of decline followed periods of unity and electoral success produced by a mass movement strategy, which focused both on a dominant leader-who was an outsider to the province- and on a strategy that combined nationalism with a radical social program. Both the League and the PPP were essentially loose coalitions of diverse and competing interests and both parties had difficulties in maintaining their organizational boundaries or finding mechanisms to solve internal disputes For both parties, the accession to power corroded party organizations and ended any pretense of party unity. As particularistic cleavages began to re-emerge, so too did the pattern of playing off powerful interprovincial interests, one against the other, and in both cases this ultimately rebounded to the advantage of the rural notables and the bureaucracy.
Certainly, the example of the League’s decline after 1947 was not unknown to Bhutto. In mid-1974 he responded to this writer’s question about the weakness of PPP organization by saying that
The People’s Party must not be allowed to become a Muslim League. The social conditions are there, the society is there-I just can’t support it. The Muslim League was the organizer of Pakistan, but after 1947, it began to become disunited. I hope to build my own selfless cadre. The People’s Party must become a Muslim League. If it does, then I will have failed in that one aspect.
There were signs in late 1974 and early 1975 that Bhutto was giving greater attention to party matters. At Rawalpindi in 1972 the Party High Command had agreed to a complete reorganization of the PPP. In the following two years, party offices from the local to the provincial levels had changed hands at least twice. Though these appointments (not elections) were made under the guise of implementing the Tanzim-i-Nau (New Organization), they were more clearly linked to the shift in factional permutations at the cabinet level in Punjab. Finally, on 30 November 1974 the party published rules and a framework for the reorganization. On 17 January 1975, Dr. Mubashar Hasan was made the Secretary- General of the PPP(the post had been unfilled since the departure of Rahim), with explicit orders to reconstruct the party around a core of Bhutto loyalists.
Though this writer was not in Pakistan long enough to observe the maturation of these efforts, by the time he left in September 1975, there were signs that little had been accomplished. Factional and particularistic forces inside the PPP had become too strong to reverse, and one suspects that whatever organization eventually emerged was th result of bargaining among various power groups in the party, many of which had not been with the PPP until after it assumed power.
In the end, one must consider whether Bhutto failed to appreciate soon enough how critical the matter of party organization was in an era of mass participation. In the anti-Ayub Movement and the late 1970 elections campaign, the PPP had given both powerful voice and ideological focus to the soaring aspirations of the lower social classes. In so doing, the PPP had driven modern political consciousness right to the bottom of society ( at least in Punjab) and had imparted to a whole new generation of political leaders a knowledge of political- agitation techniques. Moreover, in an early period of reform the PPP Regime had given these groups a taste f their victory- though few of the PPP social and interest groups accepted these reforms as anything more than a start toward the implementation of the PPP Manifesto. But, rather pushing through to this end, Bhutto soon changed directions-away from social reform, democracy, from party government, and from the leaders and groups in the PPP that insisted on these things.. Although Bhutto’s commitment to a ‘mixed economy socialism” seems genuine, he was, more that anything else a nationalist, who believed his historic destiny was to complete the work of Jinnah and found Pakistani nationalism on a permanent political base. This led him to his rapprochement with the old establishment, to his efforts to strengthen the centre against regionalist pressures, to his break with Rahim and to a containment of demands for radical social reform. These purposes, and the power to implement them, became Bhutto’s primary concern. For him, the PPP, and the groups it represented, was only one element to be factored into the grander equation. As he told this writer in August 1975
I speak of balance not in terms of a cliche, . . . not in the sense of expediency, of opportunism or of the grand compromise. My concept is rather of an orchestration of power. I see balance as a political logic as precise as a mathematical equation. . .but you always have to seek the balance. Sometimes you have to have imbalance to restore balance if things have gotten out of control. We are in a transitional period. Pakistan is like the adolescent-a stage of ugliness-and ungainliness is inevitable and all part of the process.
For many in the Pakistan People’s Party, this kind of statement was only one more indication of Bhutto’s abandonment of party government and his intention that the PPP should be little more than an instrument with which to win elections. While there would always be a sizable constituency of Bhutto loyalists in Punjab, the charisma of the PPP Chairman had worn thin for many by the beginning of 1975. Convinced that there was no leader on the horizon who could. compete with him, Bhutto relied increasingly on political acrobatics, the calculated use of unpredictability, rewards and threats to keep the opposition off balance and his partymen ( and ex-partymen) in line. A few were willing to caution the PPP Chairman about too great a dependence on the rural notables, the bureaucracy and the military. None of these groups had come through Bhutto’s reforms unscathed. As one member of the Ramay circle wrote prophetically:
the anti-Bhutto elements have not changed but only adjusted themselves with the Chief Executive of Pakistan. It is their habit to adjust themselves with the prevalent power structure. But in their heart of hearts, they still hate Mr. Bhutto. They are waiting for the appearance of a ‘Suharto’ on the political scene of Pakistan an some might be lurking in a corner.
By courtesy: The Pakistan People’s Party by Philip E. Jones, Oxford University Press Oxford, New York 2003