Does Benazir Bhutto's family and political party still have some clout in Pakistan?
No, whatever influence the Bhutto family had has declined hugely. Once a mass movement, a popular country-wide party has been reduced to being a provincial party, with majority of its vote bank in deprived areas of interior Sindh. Pakistan Peoples Party is a notoriously corrupt party which practices nepotism. In these rural and deprived areas of South Punjab, Interior Sindh and mainly Southern Balochistan I believe, feudal system and feudal lords exist who enjoy monopoly of power in their areas. These feudal lords in Sindh of course benefit from the corrupt system and are often affiliated with the PPP who then influence their workers, employees and poor to vote PPP. However, as the record shows that PPP was once a mass party which enjoyed nationwide popularity from Chitral to Karachi, this has been reduced significantly since the leadership of PPP shifted from the Bhutto family to the corrupt Zardari family.
PPP when last in power did nothing good and beneficial for the country, however proved that they were insincere to the country, inept, incompetent and corrupt. The country went down the hill under Zardari’s leadership and PPP rule from 2008 – 2012. Unfortunately, the security situation was awful in that era – horrific Marriott bombing in the capital city, bomb blasts in Peshawar, Quetta and serious crime in Karachi was too frequent. Drone attacks carried out by the U.S. were taking place on Pakistani territory and the PPP govt failed to control the situation which may have been caused by external factors. If this was responsibility of Armed Forces, than the PPP government did not play their part, they granted the then Army Chief a 3-years extension. Furthermore, under last PPP government, Pakistan’s sovereignty was undermined, example being the mentioned drone strikes and also – the Abbottabad fiasco of 2011 in which Bin Laden was apparently captured and Pakistan was kept in the dark; the Raymond Davis fiasco where a CIA agent was freed after killing 2 Pakistanis; the Memogate Scandal where PPP appointed a certified traitor as ambassador to U.S. and he was urging U.S. to act against ISI of Pakistan – his own country! It was widely believed that Zardari issued hundreds of visas to foreign agents and operatives from his Dubai residence and they were carrying out their activities freely in Pakistan, Raymond Davis being an example. All this shows that situation of Pakistan, including security, was going down the hill and all PPP cared about was vested interests of the Bhutto/Zardari family and cronies. They were busy looting the country and practicing corruption and nepotism during their tenure and that was their priority. People’s Party compromised on sovereignty of Pakistan and hardly undertook any mega projects which would benefit the people or country in their five uninterrupted years of democratic rule. By the way, PPP came into power in 2008, following assassination of Benazir Bhutto in 2007 which strongly indicates that PPP won votes out of sympathy. Zardari the widow of Benazir became President who had previously been known as Mr 10% (due to corruption) and failed to punish killers of his wife, during PPP rule.
The security situation of Pakistan greatly improved during the term of succeeding PML-N government and under military leadership of Raheel Sharif, the Pakistani military deserves credit for bringing peace into the country. PML-N wins votes due to the development projects it carries out, an example being motorway PML-N government built and other mostly infrastructure projects in Punjab where PML-N had formed provincial government for decades, like PPP in Sindh. It is alleged that PML-N often awards contracts for such projects to cronies and keeps commission from over-priced projects, nonetheless people continue to vote PML-N due to development regardless of corruption and view PML-N as more competent than PPP.
In contrary, how does PPP win votes that it still receives? There are two methods.
One set of PPP vote bank comprises the backward and uneducated people who live in deprivation, under the feudal system and lack of education and awareness makes them gullible and prone to being influenced from the influential. This set of people are also ‘jiyalas’ – the die hard Bhutto supporters. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was a charismatic leader who was a socialist (at least in theory) and appealed to masses like the workers and less privileged. These people believe that voting PPP led by Zardari equals voting the Bhutto’s of who they are die hard supporters.
Perhaps the time and education will allow these ‘jiyalas’ to realise that PPP is no longer run by Bhutto’s, it is run by Zardaris’ – Asif Ali Zardari (Mr 10%) , his kids (who are not Bhutto’s but Zardari’s) and his sister. Also, PPP is no longer a socialist party, it is a party which benefits the few influentials – who then win the party votes from those they have power over and it exploits the “Bhutto card’.
The second method through which PPP wins votes is by corruption and nepotism. PPP favours nationalisation, not because it is socialist but so it can destroy the hell out of state owned-institutions through corruption. Instead of developing and improving state-owned organisation – for example Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) it uses these to reward the party loyalists. Senior and high positions are given to cronies and associates of Zardari – whether or not they are fit and experienced for jobs. Further, PPP govt over-employs workers in public organisations which serves as a favour to those ‘extra-employees’ and PPP wins votes of those who get on payroll of state organisation, causing these organisations heavy losses and damaging the economy.