On the 20th of September 1996, Mir Murtaza Bhutto-the chairman of Pakistan People’s Party (Shaheed Bhutto) - and his companions were on their way back from a public rally they had attended in the suburbs of Karachi. They were stopped by a police contingent a few yards away from Murtaza Bhutto’s 70 Clifton resident. The policemen opened fire and shot all of them, point blank. The elder son of the former Prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and First Lady Nusrat Bhutto, Murtaza Bhutto was fatally shot dead. It was the second government of Benazir Bhutto — Murtaza Bhutto’s eldest sister. Soon after the chehlum of Mir Murtaza Bhutto, people nomiated Mir Murtaza’s wife Mrs. Ghinwa Bhutto as the party chairperson. The News Tribe got the opportunity to talk to Mrs. Ghinwa Bhutto about her political struggle.
TNT: How was the response from the people and party when you took over as chairperson after assassination of Mir Murtaza Bhutto?
Ghinwa Bhutto: The support and love from the people had been overwhelming, even till now, but unfortunately this has still not translated into political weight. When I look at Imran Khan and PTI at the moment, I just know what they are going through, because we went exactly through it. But the difference is that I was not an active player and I did not know that things emerged in the back stage with the agencies. Influential people like the Zamindars and other high profile personalities came to us because they were told to. But I had nothing to do with it! And today, I just see them joining Imran Khan is the same fashion. However that our party could win some seats in Lyari, Shikarpur and few seats in Dadu City.
TNT: Were you at that time ready for such kind of a challenge?
Ghinwa Bhutto: No, not at all. I think everyone knows that I tried to get out of the situation and did not want to take control of my husband’s party, unlike Zardari, who took over as co-chairman of his wife’s party. But, to satisfy the people on the chehlum I had announced to join party and I did not know anything about being the chairperson at that time.
TNT: What is the vision of Pakistan People’s Party (SB)?
Ghinwa Bhutto: The vision of the party is to empower the people through redistribution of wealth of the country. We are anti-imperialists, although not anti-American.
TNT: How does the internal structure of your party work? What are the areas you focus on and is there any election system inside PPP (SB)?
Ghinwa Bhutto: Absolutely, we have a very decentralized party structure. The people at the grass route level have a lot of say and whenever there is a conflict that it is referred to the higher authority or higher level of the party and then it comes to chairperson. So workers are more powerful in our party.
TNT: What are the regions in Pakistan where your party has roots amongst the people?
Ghinwa Bhutto: We are the strongest in Sindh and we have little work in other provinces. In Balochistan, we lack ground work mainly due to law and order situation there. We have to remember that we work for poor people and not for the rich people and therefore we face a lot of hurdles in elections. This is natural because when we talk about land reforms, the Zamindars are not going to join us and when we talk about distribution of wealth, the big industrialists are not going to join us. So these are problem we face in increasing our memberships.
The situation of Khyber Pukhtunkhwa is little better, but again law and order situation is not completely perfect. However, I still feel the people have yet not assimilated our message.
TNT: In Karachi, do you see any areas where there is some following?
Ghinwa Bhutto: Oh yes! We have support base in Lyari and different parts of Malir and we have some followings in every unit, but our main strengths are Malir and Lyari.
TNT: How do you foresee the next elections and what are your comments on the voters lists prepared by NADRA?
Ghinwa Bhutto: I think NADRA has concentrated on the existing voters list and I don’t think they have enrolled many new votes in their system, so there are plenty of new votes still not enlisted. As for the upcoming elections, I think we will see people now coming out, who usually don’t cast their votes, and those will vote for Imran Khan. As for the other parties, I have always called them “establishment parties.” They all have fixed votes and they cannot increase their vote banks. So basically we will not see any change in the upcoming elections, except few small surprises.
TNT: Is your party working or taking action to include the missing person in the voters list?
Ghinwa Bhutto: Yes we tried, but it’s a costly affair. Its not free and it requires huge operation. We did and we tried our best.
TNT: How have you prepared for the next elections? there are only few months left. Do you foresee coalition with other parties or will you decide to remain inactive?
Ghinwa Bhutto: First of all, I would like to inform you that we are not an inactive party, but media does not give us attention. Media only focuses on me, just to discuss my family matters and they don’t want to know about my party. For the last three years we insisted on media to start interviews with the second level leadership or the third level leadership, but unfortunately it seems as if electronic media does not like to cover people who talk about changing the system and define a way out. In the current system, everything is for the rich and the poor are only left to suffer.
As for the elections, our coalition will take place only with those parties who believe in the same lines as ours. They should be anti-imperialists, i.e., believe in distribution of wealth and empowerment of the people. On the local levels we will do local adjustments.
TNT: For the next elections there are rumours that Bilawal Bhutto Zardari will be contesting the elections. Do you also have plans to introduce Murtaza Junior in Pakistan’s politics?
Ghinwa Bhutto: I would like to ask you that just because Bilawal Bhutto is contesting next elections, Zulfiqar should also contest? It is clear that my son and daughter will not take part in the next elections. There is no comparison of Zulfiqar and Fatima with Bilawal, Asifa and Bakhtawar because both sides represent two different classes. My children represent the poor, while they represented the rich.
TNT: In your opinion what is the ‘force’ that is pushing people towards Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf and why are they getting such a strong following before the next elections? On the same note, how effective is establishment’s role in forming governments?
Ghinwa Bhutto: I think the success of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) does not speak of Imran Khan, rather it speaks of the people because people want a change. But this does not means that Imran represents the change.
Imran has been successfully giving an impression of change, but until now he has not pointed out how he can execute that. I also feel that his targeted audience are the rich, not poor. He has nothing to offer to the poor and he seems too weak to offer anything to the deprived class. If he wishes to take support from the poor, he should have outlined revolutionary programs for people with low economic resources.
TNT: What is you party’s stance on US intervention in Pakistan and do you think Nato supplies should be restored?
Ghinwa Bhutto: Under the current circumstances, Nato supplies should not be restored. What have the Americans offered to Pakistan? We believe that the conditions of alliance with the Americans are totally unfair for Pakistan. We should not allow them to attack the people of Pakistan and we should demand halt in drone attacks. I think in the current relationship, Pakistanis are treated only as servants.
TNT: How do you see the current tenure of the government, forget Zardari for a moment. Have they given good performance?
Ghinwa Bhutto: What have they performed? They haven’t done anything, we have gone back to the stone age. There is no industry, there is no cash, there is no law and order, people have no treatment, they have no hospitals working and they have no schools. George Bush only threatened us of the stone age, but Pakistan Peoples Party’s government has actually done that.
TNT: So, what is the solution and way forward? Can we afford another failure of democracy?
Ghinwa Bhutto: Look, this is not democracy! The country is in the hands of a mafia and there is no vision. The political parties who are in power have no vision. They are all tools in the hands of the foreign powers and they have no economic policy and even no planning. Planning is not difficult if they really wish to do it. It is a shame that foreign powers and IMF allow corruption, and not development in Pakistan.
The solution is to mobilize people on sound programs, economic reforms and economic development. People know very well that they need education, they need jobs. People are not free to elect their candidates because they are scared.
So unless people loose this fear and political parties like us help them in realizing that there is no place of this fear, then they will elect political parties on their manifestos. The political parties should also resist conditions imposed by international institutions and we must implement our own policies.
TNT: On Karachi situation, MNA from MQM Waseem Akhter said that they are in the government only because their people would be killed more if they are outside the government. How do you relate that with the murder of your husband. Assassination of Mir Murtaza Bhutto also happened under PPP’s government?
Ghinwa Bhutto: I think before raising an argument, Waseem Akhter should know that they killed each and every police officer who targeted their workers. So this is very likely to happen with them as well. MQM is not conducting politics for the welfare of people, instead they are conducting politics of revenge.
PPP is also involved in exploiting the situation of Karachi because they all support criminals and they tolerate criminals more than political activists. So Karachi situation is getting worst because its being supported and tolerated by the government.
TNT: What is your stance on Lyari gang war or Peoples Aman Committee and who is behind it? Zulfiqar Mirza or others?
Ghinwa Bhutto: I think they are all the same. I don’t give importance to any one person, they all are involved in Karachi unrest.
TNT: How can we control the law and order situation in Karachi?
Ghinwa Bhutto: Law and order situation has to be in the hands of people at the local level. The police has to be accountable by the people whom they protect. Today the police is accountable only by the rich people. Therefore they protect the rich people and don’t protect the poor.
There is no procedure in the country. I mean when an elected government does not give respect to the Supreme Court and the Chief Justice of Pakistan, how do you expect them to maintain law and order situation? Once the judiciary is under the local councils, only then the local cases will be conducted by the local people freely and speedily.
TNT: Wouldn’t that lead to more corruption, since local ‘lords’ will exercise their influence even more?
Ghinwa Bhutto: No I don’t think so. First of all on a smaller level it’s a locality and the people who need justice are very much concerned. Having said that, yes, injustice may take place because of the influence but then but it will be easier to deal with.
The question is that how someone becomes influential? A person is influential because he has money, he has land, he has industry and that allows him to have good contacts with police, who is not under the people. So first thing is to distribute wealth and make the police under the people. If we don’t allow excess of wealth, the ‘influential people’ will automatically vanish.
TNT: Previously, there was only Baluchistan Liberation Army, but now we have seen Sindh Liberation Army and Mohajir Liberation Army. Why is this politics based on ethnicity catching roots in Pakistan?
Ghinwa Bhutto: Nationalism is an off shoot of capitalism, but the main dispute is between the rich and the poor. The injustices of capitalism can produce these ethnic conflicts because the people start identifying their enemies through their nationality or religion.
So, the Baluchs have been totally oppressed and exploited just like the Sindhis have been. But the Baluch, as well as the Sindhis identify their oppressors as Punjabis because they see them in power. Instead of saying that the rich people are my enemy, they say that Punjabis are my enemy, even though Punjabis are also equally oppressed by the elite class.
TNT: So why don’t we see a Punjabi Liberation Movement if they are equally being exploited by the wealthy?
Ghinwa Bhutto: Because they have less scarcity. People of Punjab are more rich than others. People don’t change unless they really reach to rock bottom, otherwise they prefer not to change.
TNT: So, in your opinion, politics based on ethnicity is due to class segregation on economic grounds?
Ghinwa Bhutto: Yes. It is all because of war between rich and the poor. I totally endorsed the Baluch people in their cry against exploitation, but I don’t believe that the solution is separation. Because justice does not simply come with geographical separation. We have to take it out and we have to make the environment ready for it. Pakistan was separated from India for justice and instead we created our own class of exploiters.
TNT: Regarding youth activism in Pakistan and with emerging technologies like social media, how do you foresee the involvement of young people in politics and in social matters?
Ghinwa Bhutto: I really have confidence in youth and I am so hopeful from the youth of Pakistan. I think they on the right track, because they have identified the problems correctly. They can see what is wrong and they can describe it very well and this is very good step. But they have not yet identified the way forward and this is always the problem of oppressed class and the middle class. We are used to leaving things in the hands of others to do it for us and that is why peoples movement always take time to trigger.
TNT: Do you engage with people through social media like Facebook or Twitter?
Ghinwa Bhutto: Yes, we have a Facebook page but I don’t like Twitter, do you know why? Because it does not reach my constituency, the poor don’t have Twitter, again its only for the elite.
TNT: Do you want to give any message to the youth and specially to the rich people of Pakistan?
Ghinwa Bhutto: No, I don’t have any message for the rich! They don’t need my message. Yes my message is for the students of Karachi University, Punjab University, Peshawar University and the students of all public universities of Pakistan that you are on the right track, you have great minds. You just need to organize yourself and learn politics by going to the people and listening to their problems. People cannot learn politics only from the newspapers and news channels. Students should also read about experiences of other people, read about the revolutions that happened in last 100 years, read about the great people. There are many books that speak about leaders in history and we surely have a lot of them in Pakistan!