The Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) managed to draw a massive crowd at a rally to mark its 50th foundation day. The party claimed that the turn out at the gathering was between 70,000 and 80,000. PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto’s speech departed from some of his previous speeches where he frequently had to refer to the achievements of his late mother, Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto, and grandfather, Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, to claim legitimacy for his leadership. This time, however, the young PPP chairman seemed to have come of age as a political leader. Bilawal’s speech laid out the vision for the party ahead of the next year’s general election. However, in at least one way, the PPP chairman’s speech was not a departure from the past. Rather, it appeared to be a conscious attempt to recover the lost ideological footings of the party whose foundations go back to one of the most vibrant mass movements this country has seen in 70 years. Nonetheless, the PPP and its young chairman will be mistaken if they take the Parade Ground rally to be a sign of the party’s country-wide revival. There is no empirical evidence — from by-polls to opinion surveys — that suggests that the PPP is anywhere close in the race for the top two parties in the largest province of the country. For all intents and purposes, the PPP for now remains a party confined to the southern province. If it intends to truly live up to its basic postulates, it needs to go back to the source of its power — the people of Pakistan. It is going to be through mobilisation of a cross-section of society on wide ranging socio-economic issues concerning everyday lives of ordinary citizens that the PPP can make possible its revival as a popular liberal and a progressive force. Alongside this, the PPP must also keep open the possibility of an issue-based electoral alliance ahead of the next general election with parties that stand for strengthening of democratic institutions and civilian supremacy. At this juncture, it may prove useful for the PPP to recall Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci’s saying about situations of social crises where ‘the old is dying and the new is yet to be born’. The task for Bilawal and his supporters is precisely this: to figure out a way to connect with ordinary Pakistanis from Gilgit-Baltistan to Karachi and Gwadar in a way that they can pose their trust in the PPP’s ability to deliver efficient and effective governance without compromising on its liberal political principles. * Published in Daily Times, December 8th 2017.