With the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) all set to launch its co-chairperson Bilawal Bhutto Zardari into active politics, some big announcements are expected at Garhi Khuda Baksh on December 27, Benazir Bhutto’s fifth death anniversary.
President Asif Ali Zardari, who is also co-chairperson of the party, has called a meeting of PPP’s central executive committee the next day at Naudero.
“Important announcements are expected … the party chairpersons will announce the PPP’s future roadmap,” a party leader said, adding that the most important among them will be the formal launch of Bilawal into active politics.
Bilawal will be unveiling the party’s election manifesto ahead of the 2013 parliamentary polls, party sources said. They added that the outcome of the recently held by-polls in Punjab will be a focal point of discussion for the central executive committee.
The party’s dismal performance in the Punjab by-elections is likely to lead to criticism of PPP Punjab President Manzoor Wattoo.
Interior Minister Rehman Malik recently claimed that the PPP is to reveal important information regarding the assassination of Benazir Bhutto. The revelations will aim to pacify loyal party workers as well as the general public, and possibly give the PPP some leverage in the upcoming elections.
There are also reports that President Zardari might opt to relinquish the office of co-chairman of the party, and hand over the party command to Bilawal. A top party leader did not confirm or deny this. “I can’t say anything ... But remember Zardari’s power lies in his party office,” he said, requesting not to be named.
President Zardari has faced criticism for holding dual offices – both of president and co-chairperson of the ruling party – simultaneously; and a case is pending in this regard in the Lahore High Court.
Since the PPP is confident about its power base in Sindh, it is expected to focus on Southern Punjab, and in this regard, former premier Yousaf Raza Gilani has been handed certain tasks in preparation for the 2013 polls.
Gilani, who was reportedly aggravated with the PPP’s top leadership for the apathy shown to him after his ouster as premier, was recently accosted by President Zardari. After successfully bringing Gilani back into his inner circle of close aides, the former prime minister is now attending key party meetings and is likely to be given important responsibilities in the party.
In accordance with the Constitution, President Zardari cannot participate in the party’s election campaign by addressing any public gatherings. As a result, PPP plans to use Bilawal as their “trump card”, but a more senior party member will be needed to spearhead the nationwide campaign. Gilani is a prospective candidate for this responsibility.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 26th, 2012.