LAHORE: Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari will not be coming to the Punjab to address PPP workers on Foundation Day because of his differences with PPP’s central leaders regarding the party’s stance vis-à-vis the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), PPP officials told The Express Tribune.
A senior party leader and a member of the Central Executive Committee said that Bhutto had decided not to attend the Foundation Day ceremony on November 30 because he had not been given the ‘green light’ to criticise the PML-N governments in the Punjab and at the Centre.
“Bilawal had planned to play hardball during his first tour of the Punjab and strongly criticise the prime minister and Punjab chief minister’s policies,” the PPP official said.
The PPP chairman wanted to encourage disgruntled PPP workers by challenging PML-N leaders in the heart of the Punjab and in their stronghold, Lahore, he said. “Asif Ali Zardari advised him not to do so... he said this wasn’t the right time and that the PPP would continue its policy of reconciliation.”
Another party leader from the Punjab said that Bilawal Bhutto was supposed to lead the Foundation Day celebrations. “Those spreading the rumour that Bilawal had backed off because he was intimidated by the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s rally scheduled for the same day, are wrong.” He said had that been the reason, the PPP would never have announced Foundation Day celebrations for that day. He said in the past, Foundation Day has been celebrated in December and in mid-November.
He said the PPP has been saying that Bilawal Bhutto cancelled his visit due to “pressing engagements in London”. That sounds unconvincing, he said. Another PPP official from the Punjab said that party leaders asked to mobilise PPP workers in the Punjab had not done a good job.
PPP Punjab president Manzoor Ahmad Watto said the rumours that Bhutto and Asif Zardari had had a falling out on the party’s stance regarding PML-N were false. “Bilawal has said time and again that his father is his political mentor.” He has also issued a policy statement earlier saying that the PPP would stand behind the government, he said. Wattoo also chaired a meeting on Friday to finalise preparations for Foundation Day celebrations. Party workers decided that there would be no torch-bearing procession, fireworks or a musical programme at Bilawal House as a token of respect for the month of Safar. Senator Farhatullah Babar said there had been no announcement regarding Bhutto’s unavailability for chairing activities that day. “If there is any reason for the cancellation, it is probably security.”
He said the party was in no way divided over policy and there was no question of the PPP chairman and co-chairman being on different pages.
PPP cochairman Asif Ali Zardari is scheduled to chair the party activities in Lahore on November 30, in Bilawal Bhutto’s stead.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 29th, 2014.
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