Naveed Qamar Quashes Rumors of ‘Deal’ at ZAB Celebration in San Francisco Bay Area
By Z. Qalam

Syed Naveed Qamar Shah

The California Chapter of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) celebrated the 79th birthday of party Founder Zulfikar Ali Bhutto at the Paprika Restaurant in Antioch, California on Saturday, January 13, 2007. The Chief Guest at this program, MNA Syed Naveed Qamar Shah, flew in from Pakistan to deliver Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto’s special message on her late father’s birthday.
This event came at the tail end of a week-long worldwide celebrations held by the PPP and its well-wishers to remember Z.A. Bhutto, who would have been 79 years of age on January 5th.
Almost 28 years after his execution in Pakistan on April 4, 1979, ZAB lives on in the hearts and minds of millions of Pakistanis, and the party that he founded still possesses the largest permanent voting bank in that country. From his home town of Larkana, Pakistan all the way to the San Francisco Bay Area, groups of people look back to him and his times with many tender feelings. The possibility of the secular, democratic Pakistan that he had in mind, like Pakistan ’s Founder, Quaid-i-Azam M.A. Jinnah has earned ZAB the title of Quaid-i-Awam (Leader of the People). The PPP feels that it is still in a position to fulfill that ideal, a fact that has been realized by many now in Pakistan and even in Western capitals.
This event in Antioch gathered together possibly four generations of PPP followers or Jiyalas as they are known along with a contingent of local representatives of the PML both (N) and (Q). It started off with a recitation from the Holy Qur’an and the 200 people present heard speeches from PPP guests from as far away as Los Angeles and New York .
A prayer was said in memory of Z.A. Bhutto and added to the prayers was the well-being of Begum Nusrat Bhutto and Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto.
Young Sultan Bhutto started off the speech segment and initiated a series of naras (slogans) that has been the hallmark of the party since its inception.

Syed Naveed Qamar Shah and PPP supporters at the ZAB birthday celebration in Antioch

Makhdoom Amin Fahim, Vice Chair of the PPP called all the way from Islamabad to address the meeting. His brief telephonic speech highlighted what he called the destiny of the PPP to lead Pakistan to a brighter future. He congratulated everyone present for celebrating the Quaid-i-Awam’s birthday.
The formalities began with the presentation of the Ajrak (a Sindhi symbol of respect and friendship as well as peace) to Chief Guest MNA Naveed Qamar by Khuda Bux Bhutto and Najma Bhutto along with other PPP dignitaries present, including party senior AbdulQayyum Awan. From then onwards many people took the opportunity to speak at this event including Najma Bhutto, Hashim Jafri, Dr. Awan, Tariq Khan, Zahid Saif, Khalid Awan, Rehana and Sabra Farooq.
PPP (California) President Khuda Bux Bhutto addressing the gathering said that Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto gave the voiceless poor of Pakistan a voice. He said that today a peasant can sit on the same table as a landlord in Pakistan, thanks to the Quaid-i-Awam. He added that he was proud to celebrate the birthday of his great leader and thanked everyone for coming. “Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto can complete Z.A.B’s vision,” he said. “Insahallah it will happen.”

Left): Cake-cutting ceremony. (Right): A group of PPP supporters

The Chief Guest and Member of the National Assembly of Pakistan Naveed Qamar is the scion of one of Sindh’s well- known political families. He has established a reputation for himself as an enlightened moderate voice within the PPP and has remained close to the vision of the party without compromising on basic principles. Little known is the fact that Naveed has a background in the hi-tech industry and there was a time during the 1980’s when he and his wife Almas were a welcome addition to Silicon Valley ’s Pakistani-American social life. He has helped many a student in their FORTRAN Programming classes. The transition from software to politics has been relatively easy for him.
In his keynote speech delivered in both Urdu and English, MNA Naveed Qamar began by appreciating the fact that many women were participating in this event, which was a welcome sign (and part of the PPP practice of politics if one might add). Delivering a message from the PPP Chairperson Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto which highlighted the epic struggle for justice by her late father Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, a call was made to unite under the banner of democracy and to re-enforce Roti-Kapra-Makaan (food-clothing-shelter) as a focal point. Benazir Bhutto through Naveed Qamar highlighted the achievements of ZAB and said that “The Torch of Freedom,” that was the legacy of the Quaid-i-Awam is still lit for Pakistan ’s people. She thanked everyone present for celebrating her father’s birthday and congratulated PPP followers for holding events to remember him.
Next Syed Naveed Qamar delivered his own speech. Speaking from the heart, he said that besides rumors of deals between the Musharraf Government and the PPP several myths that had been created by the current government had to be unveiled. First he said that the current $12 billion dollar foreign exchange reserve of Pakistan was not a government achievement generated from within Pakistan but was of overseas origin especially a symptom of post-9/11 insecurity amongst Pakistanis living in Europe or North America who transferred money home. Second he said that the much-touted 7-8% annual growth in Pakistan ’s economy was mainly from the non-productive sector such as banking. Last and not least, he said that reports have come out that Pakistanis are happier today and that their economic well-being has improved. Naveed Qamar said that things were looking good to 2% of the people in Pakistan while 98% were facing increased unemployment, load shedding, price rises and eroding buying power due to inflation. He said that there was much criticism of the last PPP government about buying expensive electricity generation. Today the current rulers are paying twice that amount. “What is there for the poor?” he asked. Corruption according to Transparency International is much worse today in Pakistan than ever before, he added.

The cake

Now on the hot topic of the day, he said several rumors are being forwarded (mostly by members of the current establishment) about deals between the PPP and the Government. He said that what is needed is a re-emphasis on Pakistan ’s Constitution (a legacy of Z.A. Bhutto). “We need a firm footed democracy,” he said (not deals). “We need free and fair elections in Pakistan,” he added. “You (Pakistani-Americans) need to emphasize that here,” he added. Speaking to the PPP workers he said that the first step towards that effort should be unity within the PPP workers. “If you feel for Pakistan, please give it your time and help us,” he added. “Those inspired by the memory of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto need to struggle for democracy in Pakistan,” he said. He closed his speech with words of thanks to all in attendance.
Closing the program with the ceremonial cutting of a huge cake for Z.A. Bhutto’s birthday, many things came to mind. The PPP still remains the largest democratic force in the country in spite of the sufferings of its leadership and workers. Closing in on 30 years since Z.A. Bhutto’s overthrow (July 5, 1977) and almost 28 years since execution (April 4, 1979) his memory lives on as an inspiration for a secular democratic Pakistan. The question is: will the progressive forces in Pakistan come together to save its founder’s vision of it or will it be the people who once opposed its creation who will lead it into more dangerous waters?



Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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