- Insiders say Punjab chapter of party divided in four major groups headed by Mian Manzoor Wattoo, Nadeem Afzal Chan, Qamaruz Zaman Kaira and Yousaf Raza Gilani
In the process of breathing a new life into the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), its chairman, Bilawal Bhutto, Zardari will face powerful intra-party groups, especially in Punjab where the party is divided into four groups, PPP leaders and workers on anonymity told Pakistan Today.
“The party is running along group lines and the major groups are headed by Mian Manzoor Wattoo, Nadeem Afzal Chan, Qamaruz Zaman Kaira and Yousaf Raza Gilani,” said a party insider.
When PPP Co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari last visited Lahore – while Bilawal had been kept out of that visit – PPP Senior Vice-Chairman Makhdoom Amin Fahim had pointed to party groups in his address and had requested the party co-chairman to work to end the grouping culture.
In his address, Zardari had asked the party workers to end grouping as “only I’ll be issuing tickets to candidates in next general elections”. However, Zardari’s strong-worded warning did not work as groups still exist and are thriving, said a party worker, who introduced himself with his second name, Shafi.
Pakistan Today has learnt that party leaders choose groups on the basis of their region, personal likes and dislikes, sect and caste.
Manzoor Wattoo made his mark in the party after winning two National Assembly seats from his hometown Okara in General Elections 2008. He joined the party and was made a federal minister.
Since then, the seasoned politician did not look back and soon became a close associate of Zardari during the party’s heydays. In 2012, he was made PPP’s Punjab president.
“It was a shock for hardcore jiyalas to accept Wattoo as their president,” said a former MPA from south Punjab. “However, Wattoo tried to woo electables to the party and during that process, jiyalas maintained a distance from him,” he said.
Wattoo faces utmost resistance from the PPP Lahore chapter, said a worker.
However, in the Wattoo group, the considerable leaders are Naveed Chaudhry, Dewan Ghulam Mohyuddin, Dewan Ashiq, Fareed Kathia, Rana Farooq Saeed, Tasneem Qureshi and several members of PPP Punjab executive councils, it has been learnt.
As for Afzal Chan, he used to be a backbencher in the PPP cadre. The party’s mainstream politicians started noticing him when he started participating in TV talk shows and loyally defended the party, also criticising the wrongdoings of party leaders side by side.
His peak time was when the party chose him for Senate election in Punjab in 2014. His candid talks, clean credentials and down to earth demeanour earned him respect not only in PPP ranks but Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) disgruntled MPAs also voted for him in the election.
Currently, Chan’s group enjoys the backing of former prime minister Raja Pervez Ashraf, the powerful Gondals of Mandi Bahauddin, Ashraf Sohna of Okara, Manzoor Chaudhry of Kasur and Rajas of Rawalpindi, it has been learnt. Chan also enjoys the support of hardcore jiyalas at grassroots.
According to a party source, Chan has been allotted a room in Bilawal House, Lahore. He is considered close to both Bilawal and Zardari. “He is likely to be given an important task in Punjab for reviving PPP at the grassroots,” said a party insider.
On the other hand, Qamaruz Zaman Kaira group is a thing of the past.
The scion of the Kaira family, which has been in the PPP since 70s, rose to fame soon after he won elections from Gujrat in 2002. His manners and arguments silenced his opponents on TV talks shows.
When Yousuf Raza Gilani was disqualified by the Supreme Court, Kaira was seriously considered by PPP for premiership. He has been the face of the party for the last seven years. Seeing his popularity, several party leaders from central Punjab sought his guidance in party affairs. That made a visible Kaira group in the party.
“No one was alarmed by the presence of Kaira group in the party as they all were committed to the party,” said a party leader from Lahore.
During Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI)’s dharna, some media reports regarding Kaira’s possible defection to the party made him weak as leaders started keeping a distance from him. Chan was among them, said party sources.
Moreover, Yousaf Raza Gilani’s group is no secret, it has been learnt.
Gilani is in fact the product of grouping when he defeated Fakhar Imam in the district council chairman election in the 80s on the basis of group politics. During 2002 and 2008 elections, Gilani, in rivalry of Shah Mahmood Qureshi, tried to field as many candidates of his group.
Currently, Gilani leads the only group, Gilani group, in PPP South Punjab. The only soft opponent is Makhdoom Shahabuddin of Rahim Yar Khan.
WHAT PARTY LEADERS SAY:
When contacted on the issue, PPP leaders had some interesting things to say.
Kaira told Pakistan Today that grouping is a norm of every political party and the PPP was no exception. Likeminded groups are in every party, he maintained, however he refuted having his own group in the party. He also refuted the reports of defection, establishing that he still he enjoys the trust of the party leadership and workers.
On the other hand, Chan said PPP was the party of Bhutto, and there was only one group called Bhutto Group. He said party workers only followed Bhuttoism and were committed to working under the leadership of Zardari and Bilawal.
Moreover, Wattoo also denied the existence of any group, stressing that he tried to get along with all leaders and workers. “All of us are working together and there are no groupings,” he said.