Interview – Mian Manzoor Ahmad Wattoo
Had a conspiracy not been hatched, the PPP and the PTI would have reigned supreme in the rural and urban Punjab respectively
A veteran politician, who rose from the grassroots to the highest office in the Punjab, Mian Manzoor Ahmad Wattoo is exceptionally well-versed with the politics of the largest province in the country. It was this background and the PPP’s desire to perform well at the hustings in the key province that the party’s top echelons appointed him as the head honcho in the Punjab prior to the 2013 general elections. Under his watch the PPP was routed in the Punjab, yet Wattoo firmly believes that given the leadership of the party, its vision and organisation, the PPP could make a strong comeback and soon.
In an exclusive interview, he explained at great length why the PPP failed to do well in the 2013 elections.
Q: Where did the PPP’s voters go in 2013 elections?
A: The PPP is an anti-establishment political party with progressive and liberal outlook from the very start. It is the only party in the country that gave the poor and deprived sections of the society an identity and platform to raise their voice against the powerful and exploitative forces. Hence, it has been the victims of several intrigues and scheming by the vested interest ever since its birth in Pakistan. The PPP received its first setback when a dictator sent its founder Zulfikar Ali Bhutto to gallows. This happened despite the fact that Bhutto was the most popular leader after the Quaid-i-Azam. There was an outpouring of grief and sorrow throughout the country. The grief-stricken and protesting party workers took to the streets. They were subjected to extreme political victimisation but they remained steadfast and committed to the party and its ideology. They were seen resorting to self-immolation.
Despite all the negative tactics adopted against PPP, it emerged victorious in the very first elections that it took part in 1988 after the death of ZAB, and Benazir Bhutto became the prime minister of Pakistan. But she was not accepted by the powers that be, and was removed from office.
Since then the PPP has always came to power whenever there were free and fair elections in the country. In 1997 it was again the victim of political scheming. It secured only 18 seats in the National Assembly. Circumstances were such that the party cadre could not come out to support party candidates. But in 2002 under a dictator it staged a comeback and won the elections. But then a more loyal than the king DG Rangers deprived the PPP of an opportunity to come to power. He through a combination of coercion and temptation broke away PPP’s 18 MNAs, offering them powerful ministries to buy their loyalties. As a reward for their volte face, they were given important portfolios including senior, interior and defence ministries. In this way the public mandate was stolen.
In 2013 again a pre-planned conspiracy was hatched by the PML-N and other vested interests to floor PPP again. Had this not happened, the PPP in the interior Punjab and the PTI in the urban areas could have fetched more seats than they actually ended up with.
Both PPP and PTI wrested seats from PML-N in by-elections in Rahimyar Khan and D.G. Khan, which is ample proof that underhand methods had been used in the general elections. In Okara, my son lost in the general elections but in by-election he won by a huge margin.
Again, the government’s performance, load-shedding and party workers’ disillusionment each contributed towards the party’s defeat. The traditional party workers ready to do anything for the party stayed away from the elections.
Q: Why the PPP is missing in action from the Punjab? Did it abandon the Punjab chapter to focus only on Sindh?
A: It is not true. The party’s top leadership appointed me as president of PPP Punjab. This underlines its commitment to improve the party’s stock in the province. In 2013, PML-N gained the top position, followed by PTI. The PPP was third with only eight seats in the Punjab assembly.
In order to gain first position we need a lot of hard work and commitment. Before local bodies, I along with my colleagues toured throughout the province. We did a thorough assessment on party’s prospects in the local government polls, and suggested ways and means to excel in these. But then the government postponed the polls. Despite that we continued our efforts to reorganise party in all the districts. Our re-organisational efforts are still underway and in the next three months, we will be able to reorganise the party on every level both in rural and urban areas of the province. We have also activated the party’s organisational machinery before the expected arrival of Bilawal Bhutto in Lahore.
Q: What are the factors that can help PPP stage a comeback in future?
A: No party can come close to PPP when it comes to its leadership. Nawaz Sharif and Imran Khan can be no match to ZAB and Benazir Bhutto. Likewise, no party could match PPP’s workers or its organisation. The PPP is the only party with a strong base all over the Punjab and in all four provinces.
So we are confident about the party’s future prospects. We will do everything to bring back the angry workers in party to play their role. We will approach them with the vision and ideals of ZAB and BB.
Our ultimate goal is not only to gain access to power in Punjab and elsewhere. We want to serve the people of Punjab and create our niche in fact. The people of Punjab are not being treated nicely by the government. It has failed to provide them health and educational facilities. It seems as if Punjab has been handed over to exploitative classes to rip off the public. Imagine government spending tens of billions on 28 km track of Jungla bus service when the same amount could be put to construct development projects of far greater impact.
Q: Can Bilawal Bhutto make a difference?
A: In Bilawal we can see a reflection of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Benazir Bhutto. It is not just their reflection, but their vision and thoughts as well. Bilawal is the only leader in the country who raised a very strong voice against terrorism and Taliban. He is also the true representative of youth. Likewise, no other party is as clear as PPP on war on terror and what the leadership needs to do.
Source: Pakistan Today