ISLAMABAD: After the humiliating defeat of Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) in the May 11 general elections, former president Asif Ali Zardari is considering overhauling his party’s organisational structure in Punjab and Sindh on the eve of his celebrated wife’s sixth death anniversary.
Sources in the party told The Express Tribune that Bilawal Bhutto Zardari will launch himself in politics while retaining the office of the party chairman. Meanwhile, his father will assume the position of patron-in-chief, – in the words of Asif Zardari’s close aides, ‘Sarparast-e-Aala’ – a ceremonial role, non-existent on paper that will still let the former president call the shots in the party.
Zardari had to relinquish his party position last year under judicial pressure that barred him from being associated with politics because he was the president of the country. This law also bars holders of constitutional offices from taking part in politics for two years after their retirement. Keeping that in mind, he is likely to choose the ceremonial portfolio.
“Mr President [former president Zardari] is currently resting. We will be reorganising the party after BB’s [Benazir Bhutto’s] death anniversary this year,” a close associate of the former president said, adding that a meeting of the PPP central executive committee will be convened on the eve of the event for taking major decisions.
Major reshuffle in provinces
Sources have also informed that PPP loyalist Aitzaz Ahsan is likely to replace Mian Manzoor Ahmad Wattoo as party president in Punjab and the former information minister, Qamar Zaman Kaira, will be appointed secretary general of the Punjab chapter.
In the PPP powerbase, Sindh, where PPP is still the ruling party, Nisar Khuhro is believed to replace Syed Qaim Ali Shah as the provincial party president.
Zardari’s close friend Dr Zulifqar Mirza, who had been keeping a low profile so far, is likely to play a more active role in Sindh politics. He will take charge as secretary general of the party’s Sindh chapter. The party is also considering changes in K-P; however, no new names have emerged as yet.
Party at grassroots
Once the central and provincial restructuring is complete, PPP leadership is also planning to reorganise the party at the local level.
“It is easier to restructure when we are in the opposition. When we are in power, every party worker comes up with his demands for jobs, funds, etc,” a party leader said.
Keeping a low profile, PPP will not disturb the Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz government until next year, it is widely believed.
Only the elected members of PPP will hold ceremonial press conferences or use the platform of the assemblies to address issues, and even that occasionally.
Bilawal to abstain from public appearance
The PPP, before the last elections, had made an attempt to introduce Bilawal as the new face of the party but the move failed to attract substantial response from the masses. Zardari-appointed heir of the Bhutto throne, Bilawal is now 25 and can contest elections besides holding the office of party chairman.
Despite being the second largest party in the National Assembly and largest in Sindh Assembly, the PPP leadership is not in a mood to indulge in politics of the masses as it was under its founding chairman Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.
There were reports that Aseefa, Benazir’s youngest daughter, might be launched into politics. The PPP sources said there were no such plans and, because the country’s patriarchal culture, Zardari would want Bilawal to be the new face of the party.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 30th, 2013.