“Benazir and Bilawal have turned the PPP upside down.” Dr Mubashir Hasan

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Dr Mubashir Hasan, 95, is one of the founding members of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and a close associate of the party’s founding chairman, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto (ZAB). In fact, on November 30, 1967, the party’s founding convention was held on the lawns of his residence in Gulberg, Lahore. Dr Hasan was elected a member of the National Assembly in the December 1970 elections, and subsequently became Finance Minister in Z. A. Bhutto’s first cabinet. He also served as secretary-general of the PPP in the mid-1970s.

In this interview with Adnan Adil, he shares his memories of PPP’s formative years and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.


How did Zulfikar Bhutto emerge as a populist leader, even though he was a foreign minister in General Ayub Khan’s military government?


The 1965 war with India awakened Punjab, Sindh – all those places where the Indian bombs had fallen. Gen Ayub Khan’s [subsequent] acquiescence to the Soviet Union’s proposal or what was signed at Tashkent was condemned by the masses. Then foreign minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s opposition to the Tashkent agreement also became known to the people. Mr Bhutto’s declaration that he would, in due course, reveal the secret behind the Tashkent agreement became a powerful slogan in his rhetoric on India. His speeches before the Security Council and the General Assembly became the crying demand of a large segment of the population in Punjab and those areas of Sindh which were invaded and captured by the Indian forces.


PPP activists were ready to do and die at Bhutto’s command. He could not imagine the welcome he received at every railway station where the train stopped during his journey from Rawalpindi to Lahore. After the Quaid-e-Azam, no leader had been mobbed by the people as Bhutto was, after the Tashkent Agreement. Realising that the people were extremely incensed by the Tashkent Agreement, Bhutto kept threatening to reveal “the secret behind the Tashkent Agreement.”


Did Bhutto ever reveal the “Tashkent secret” to any of his colleagues?


Bhutto never revealed the so-called Tashkent secret, neither in public nor in private. We assumed that Ayub Khan had made a secret pledge to the Soviet Union and India in Tashkent. I never asked Bhutto about it, and nor do I remember any other party member asking him about it. It is very possible that there was no secret behind Tashkent.


How did Ayub Khan’s government respond to Bhutto’s political activities?


Ayub Khan’s government did not approve of Bhutto’s growing popularity. A public meeting at Lahore’s Gol Bagh (now renamed Nasir Bagh) to be addressed by Bhutto, was sabotaged by the government. The lawn of the venue was hosed down by the municipal committee and there were allegations that an electric current was run through the water.


Was it Bhutto’s popularity that served as a catalyst for the formation of the Pakistan People’s Party?


The highly intelligent J. A. Rahim, who was an expert in foreign diplomacy and had made his name at the Bandung Conference, emerged as a principal supporter of Bhutto during this period. He felt that Bhutto had a flair for politics. In 1967, Bhutto went to Europe for a few months, where he met with Rahim, then Pakistan’s ambassador to Paris, whom Bhutto highly respected. So the stage for the launch of a new political party was set in Paris between Bhutto and Rahim. Both wanted to free Pakistan from American influence.


Rahim claimed it was he who suggested that Bhutto establish a political party.


Bhutto made Rahim secretary-general of the party, and accepted Rahim’s ideas on what the ethos of what the new party should be. Understandably, Rahim called Bhutto’s PPP ‘his party’ until the very end.


How did you come into contact with Bhutto?


Bhutto’s popularity became known to all, and almost all political leaders wanted him to join their respective parties. In 1966, he was invited by the Nawa-e-Waqt group, which supported him initially, to deliver a lecture in Lahore on Hamid Nizami Day. I went to Karachi to invite him on their behalf. During my brief meeting with Bhutto, I asked him if the party he was planning to form would be left-wing or right-wing. “Left-wing, of course,” he said emphatically.


Following the 1965 war, some concerned citizens in Lahore, including myself decided to join the PPP. Initially, I was not in favour of Bhutto, as he was a minister in Gen Ayub Khan’s cabinet, but all the other members of the group liked him. Initially, my meetings with Bhutto related to management issues, not politics. He did not know who was who in the Punjab, which I did, so I was useful to him.


Who were ZAB’s main advisers in the earlier days and what was their role?


The people who were close to Bhutto in those days were Mustafa Khar, Mian Aslam, Sheikh Rasheed (aka Baba-e-socialism), Mirza Tahir Ahmed (of the Jamaat-e-Ahmadiyya) and a police inspector (retd.) Sheikh Safdar, who was a private assistant to Bhutto. Mustafa Khar was a great admirer of his. He was impressed by his speeches on foreign policy in the National Assembly and in the media. Mirza Tahir Ahmed, a brother of Mirza Nasir Ahmed, the head of the Jamaat-e-Ahmadiyya, was quite close to Bhutto and would frequently visit him. The network of the Jamaat’s followers was a big source of information. Mirza Nasir Ahmed also remained a de facto adviser of Bhutto, even after the latter came into power.


How was the convention for the launch of the party organised?


Aslam Hayat, president district bar association of Lahore, was nominated as president of an organising committee of the convention for the launch of the political party in November 1967. Hayat could not find a place for holding the meeting in Lahore. I offered to hold the convention at my house in Gulberg.


What was the model of the PPP?


There was no model of the party before us. In those days, the party used to have the office of ‘chairman’ in the provinces. Sheikh Rasheed was chairman of the party in Punjab and Mustafa Khar the secretary. I opened 450 units and offices of the party in Lahore. People were enthusiastic about joining the PPP on their own, without any invitation. Each office gave five to 10 rupees in donation to the central organisation. Bhutto would visit the smaller localities of Lahore and address those who had joined the party.


The president of the Socialist Party, C. R. Aslam, secretly directed the diehard communist activists of his party to become members of the PPP and advance the cause of Communism through the new party. They would raise the slogan of: “Asia surkh hai, Asia surkh hai” (Asia is red, Asia is red) and initiate and lead agitations. The objective of the Communist activists was to exploit Bhutto for their own agenda, but they ended up being used cleverly by Bhutto. However, no leftist intellectual supported the PPP.


Who formulated the ideology of the party and coined the basic slogans of the PPP?

The document contained one paper written by Bhutto, two by Rahim, including one titled ‘Socialism is…

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