Leftists, Progressives Team Up With Islamists to Oust Bhutto. ‘It Was a Foolish Idea’.

Nadeem F Paracha in SMOKERS’ CORNER: THE BANDWAGON LEFT: On October 9, 2009, the day my father passed away, I received a call from an old college friend of his. The friend was Meraj Muhammad Khan. Meraj, who passed away in 2016, was a fiery leftist politician and one of the founding members of ZA Bhutto’s Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP). 

In 1973, Meraj had a falling out with Bhutto. So, what I was really interested in talking to Meraj about were his years as an anti-PPP activist who, in 1976, decided to support the Pakistan National Alliance (PNA). It was an electoral alliance headed by the country’s three largest Islamist parties. Also part of the PNA were some prominent Baloch and Pakhtun nationalists. Various Marxist and progressive figures too had decided to support it.

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PNA’s manifesto was influenced by the theories of the ‘Islamic state’ formulated by Islamist ideologues such as Abul Ala Maududi. I asked Meraj what were the reasons behind some leftists and progressives teaming up with Islamists to oust Bhutto? After a long pause, Meraj sighed, “It was a foolish idea.” He said that many leftists were disillusioned with Bhutto and decided to support any group that had the potential to oust him. He then said that the anti-Bhutto leftists/progressives believed they would be able to “catch some of the anti-Bhutto votes” if they stood with the PNA. They didn’t catch many, though. And the rest, as they say, is history — but not a very pleasant one.

The late politician Sherbaz Khan Mazari, in his book A Journey to Disillusionment, wrote that Meraj wept when in 1979 Ziaul Haq sent Bhutto to the gallows. Bhutto was toppled in a military coup in 1977 and then executed. In 2018, two years after Meraj passed away, I found myself talking to a former leftist contemporary of his in Washington DC. He was a young man when he became a ZA Bhutto supporter but, like Meraj, he too joined PNA’s anti-Bhutto movement that erupted after the March 1977 elections. I asked him, couldn’t the leftists, through their ‘Marxist’ wisdom, realize that they might have been aiding reactionaries to create conditions for a right-wing coup? The gentleman shrugged his shoulders, and in a resigned tone replied, “Beta (son), we were probably naive and actually thought we were doing democracy a service.” More here >