The Pakistan Peoples Party is on the move internally, with a number of big decisions close to taking final shape, The Express Tribune has learnt.
With Bilawal Bhutto Zardari having reached the age of 25, the party can now officially reappoint him the chairman. Bilawal had to surrender his position as chairman as he was old enough to hold the post, according to a senior leader. However, he is unlikely to contest by-elections anytime soon, despite rumours to the contrary.
While Bilawal’s elevation was expected, the party has some other internal moves coming in the lead-up to its Central Executive Committee (CEC) meeting scheduled for December 27, Benazir Bhutto’s death anniversary. According to party insiders, who requested not to be named, former president Asif Ali Zardari has chosen not to hold the post of chairman or even co-chairman. Instead, former prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani is being tipped the new co-chairman of the party. Gilani had been rendered ineligible for public office following his conviction in a contempt of court case in 2012.
The reshuffle may also see the return to prominence of stalwart Aitzaz Ahsan, possibly as the party’s secretary general. Makhdoom Amin Fahim, meanwhile, is being tipped to be made senior vice chairman. Moreover, in another big move, those who had been holding high positions in the provincial setups, while also holding government offices, would also be replaced in the party’s internal high command.
Removal of dual-office holders
When contacted regarding the reorganisation of the party, current PPP Secretary General Latif Khosa confirmed to The Express Tribune that all senior leaders holding dual positions would be relieved of their party responsibilities. “We have principally decided that the senior party positions would not be given to ministers, speakers and chief ministers in the future because this has hampered the party’s performance and all those who are working on these positions would be removed soon. It is not government that runs the party, but governments are formed by political parties. Therefore we should strengthen our party [internally],” he said.
“Zardari sahib is not willing to work as chairman or even co-chairman of the party,” a CEC member of the party told The Express Tribune.
Some senior party leaders have suggested the former president hold the position of patron-in-chief, which is an unofficial and ceremonial post. This suggestion is also being made keeping in mind that there is some confusion regarding whether there is a time bar on an outgoing president holding political office.
When asked, Khosa did agree that this position suits the former president and confirmed that many PPP leaders have also suggested he take up this spot in the future, but did not give details. “I cannot further comment on it, but we will let the CEC decide about this,” he added. He did not comment on any of the other possible nominations, either.
Khosa also said that there was no need for a CEC meeting for the revival of Bilawal’s chairmanship. According to him, only an executive order of the party is needed.
“Looking at the Political Parties’ Order 2002, the party surrendered Bilawal’s chairmanship some time ago because he was not eligible to contest the election and lead the party. He turned 25 last month and this embargo has been lifted,” Khosa told The Express Tribune. “The initial CEC decision which made Bilawal chairman is still valid. I have started consultation with the party leadership and other senior stalwarts and can, at any time, issue a notification to restore his chairmanship,” he said.
There were reports that PPP would soon field Bilawal in a by-election from NA-204 (Larkana) – something that was also suggested by PPP leader Makhdoom Shahabuddin on Monday. Khosa confirmed that there was a proposal being floated by some senior party leaders and former Sindh law minister Ayaz Soomro had already offered to resign from his seat, but no decision has yet been made.
Another senior also said that a decision in this regard is yet to be made. “It was decided in the last CEC meeting that Bilawal would only contest the by-polls whenever PPP have majority votes in the centre and can form the government.” They further added that “Bilawal has no parliamentary experience and Khursheed Shah is doing well; therefore it is premature to make this decision.”
Former president Zardari is said to have left the country for Ajman on Monday, and there were unconfirmed reports that Bilawal, too, had left for Dubai.
Bilawal has hit the ground running over the last few days, and while there are reports that he had left the country, others suggested that he will travel to Larkana again on October 23 in order participate in Begum Nusrat Bhutto’s first death anniversary. “Bilawal also intends to visit Lyari soon, which is a stronghold of PPP. It will be his surprise visit,” a PPP leader said.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 22nd, 2013.