- Bilawal to gather forces on ground, refrain from grilling MQM, PML-N while Zardari looks into political wrangling and party’s policy matters
- PPP Punjab President Wattoo likely to be replaced with Kaira or Chan owing to latter’s effective penetration at grass-roots
- Wattoo’s new role is to work closely with Zardari to win the potential candidates for PPP
- Political analysts say Zardari charismatic but Bilawal can communicate with youth better
Pakistan Today has learnt from the party insiders that Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari’s new role in politics will be to re-organise the party at the grass root level in Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), Gilgit-Baltistan (GB), Balochistan and Sindh and he will refrain from giving hard hitting statements against Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), its leader Altaf Hussain, and the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N).
On the other hand, PPP Co-Chairman Ali Zardari will look after political wrangling and continue to call the shots on policy matters and party’s relationship with other political forces, sources said.
According to PPP insiders, Bilawal is likely to visit Lahore around Ramazan; the exact dates of his visit will be decided in the party’s Central Executive Committee meeting.
A senior PPP leader said that Bilawal will “convince, motivate and energise” all the PPP jiyalas (workers) who have been “disappointed” by the party and have not received the kind of “attention” that Benazir Bhutto gave.
The senior PPP leader said that it was likely that PPP Punjab President Manzoor Ahmed Wattoo will be replaced soon. “The names of former information minister Qamaruz Zaman Kaira and Nadeem Afzal Chan are under consideration for the top slot in Punjab. The announcement in this regard is likely to be made soon,” he said.
“Unlike Wattoo, both of them had been affiliated with the party since decades and have more penetration in the party at grass-root level which would help Bilawal’s cause of re-organising the party,” another PPP insider said.
He added that all the senior leaders have agreed to replace PPP Lahore President Samina Khalid Ghurki. However, Bilawal has expressed his confidence in PPP South Punjab President Makhdom Ahmed Mahmood.
“Wattoo is likely to get a new role where he will work closely with the co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari to win the potential candidates for PPP. Wattoo has worked hard in Punjab but both Kaira and Chan are better options for mobilising the jiyalas,” he added.
When contacted, Wattoo said that he has no such information yet.
People close to Bilawal on anonymity told Pakistan Today that he is keen to induct fresh blood for the re-organisation of PPP, but he has been advised by the top brass to keep a mix of experienced and new members at all ranks of the party.
“Hasham Riaz Shiekh, the former secretary of Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, who was believed to be behind the fiery speech delivered by Bilawal against MQM and its chief Altaf Hussain, is also being kept at a distance from the chairman,” sources added.
Talking to Pakistan Today, political advisor to PPP co-chairman, Nadeem Afzal Chan, said, “Bilawal is the future of Pakistan and I am hopeful that he would be able to attract 60 per cent population of Punjab which is youth. The workers of PPP are fully charged and mobilised for Bilawal’s tour and we are hopeful that he will be able to revive the lost glory of the party in Punjab.”
Chan categorically denied any differences between Bilawal and Zardari, saying that such conspiracies had also been hatched in the past to “destabilise the largest political force of the country”.
PPP Punjab Media Coordinator Ahsan Abbas Shah told Pakistan Today that the expected arrival of Bilawal in Punjab and other provinces had made the workers “happy, excited and optimistic”.
“We find another Bhutto amongst ourselves whenever he is here. We need progressive leaders like Bilawal rather anyone who is apologist of terrorists,” he said, welcoming Bilawal.
In the meanwhile, political analysts told Pakistan Today that PPP is suffering from a “leadership crisis”.
“Bilawal is the appointed heir to Benazir Bhutto but has remained intermittently active. Zardari is a smart political player but not the kind of charismatic leader that inspires political mobilisation,” they said.
They added that the political programme of PPP is “old” and has “lost its relevance” in the fast urbanising Punjab where the infrastructural economic growth and delivery of basic services like education matters for most of the voters.
“Bilawal can certainly energise the cadres which have been disappointed by the party. However, the major constraint on Bilawal Bhutto Zardari is that he cannot travel widely due to security concerns which are real and worse than a decade ago,” said political analyst Raza Rumi.
Rumi added that in the current context, it is clear that Bilawal, as a youth himself, has a clear edge over all other leaders as he can communicate and relate to plight of young men and women and become a symbol of their hope and aspirations. “For this to happen, he would need to make extraordinary efforts and work hard towards re-building the party and its relevance,” he added.