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Wait till 2018 or start now: PPP divided on Bilawal’s NA debut

January 06, 2014

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The media started speculating about Mr Bilawal becoming a member of the National Assembly after reports that a party MNA from Larkana (NA-204), Ayaz Soomro, had been asked to resign.  — File Photo by PPI
The media started speculating about Mr Bilawal becoming a member of the National Assembly after reports that a party MNA from Larkana (NA-204), Ayaz Soomro, had been asked to resign. — File Photo by PPI

ISLAMABAD: The timing of PPP patron-in-chief’s entry to parliamentary politics is under debate among the PPP leadership, with some arguing he should contest a by-election instead of waiting till the next general election.

Since September last when he became eligible for contesting an election after attaining the age of 25, Mr Bilawal had been reportedly keen on reaching parliament. But there is a strong group, led by his father and former president Asif Ali Zardari, which believes that it is too early for him to jump into election politics, sources in the PPP told Dawn.

The media started speculating about Mr Bilawal becoming a member of the National Assembly after reports that a party MNA from Larkana (NA-204), Ayaz Soomro, had been asked to resign.

PPP officially denies these reports, but sources close to Mr Soomro claim that he has already handed over his resignation to Mr Bilawal.

Background interviews with a number of PPP leaders reveal different viewpoints and arguments — both in support and against Mr Bilawal’s entering the assembly as an opposition leader.

Those who favour Mr Bilawal’s immediate entry to parliament believe that his election will help revive the party and it will be able to improve its image as opposition. They argue that although the PPP is the largest opposition group in terms of number of seats in parliament, the general public generally considers Imran Khan’s PTI a genuine opposition party.

On the other hand, a sizeable group of party leaders, including some senior parliamentarians, suggest that Mr Bilawal should lead the party in the next general elections in 2018 and till then he should concentrate on reorganising the party that had performed badly in the May polls.

They believe that the young chairman is not mature enough to play the role of an opposition leader in the assembly where the PML-N enjoys a commanding majority.

“Bilawal has a hawkish attitude whereas in the assembly one has to make compromises, even while sitting on the opposition benches,” said a senior PPP leader from Punjab. He said that since the party leadership had a consensus that the present democratic set-up should not be disturbed and the PML-N government should be allowed to complete its five-year term it might be difficult for Mr Bilawal to make compromises which usually the opposition parties had to make on certain issues.

“Certainly a debate is going on within the party as to when Bilawal Bhutto should contest an election and all pros and cons are being discussed at various levels,” Fawad Chaudhry, the newly-appointed media adviser to Mr Bilawal, told Dawn.

“At the moment, I can only say that no decision has been taken and we will cross the bridge when it comes,” he said.

He denied reports that the party leadership had asked Mr Soomro to quit his NA seat to enable Mr Bilawal to contest a by-election.

Farhatullah Babar, spokesman for Mr Zardari, ruled out the possibility of Mr Bilawal’s immediate entry to parliament. He said there was a consensus in the party that Mr Bilawal should not take part in any by-election before 2018.