KARACHI: As Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari prepares to take political flight, party officials say the young leader will be repositioned to Lahore to try his hand at redressing the bruised Punjab chapter of the party.
“He will be spending considerable time in Lahore,” a party source close to Bilawal told Dawn.
“As a leader, he wants to revive and reorganise the party.” He added that Co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari might accompany his son on some days, but Bilawal would be mostly reaching out to local office-bearers on his own.
“He wants to know his people,” the PPP official added. “Zardari did not have time to go to Punjab. Bilawal now has the time to do that.”
For security reasons, he did not disclose where Bilawal would be residing, although it is expected that the chairman will be working out of the Lahore Bilawal House.
With the PPP bearing the brunt of what is dubbed the ‘PML-N friendship alliance’ in the ongoing political crisis, the Punjab leadership of the party feels the chairman needs to focus attention on ignored and disgruntled workers in the country’s most important province.
PPP leader and former Information Minister Firdous Ashiq Awan says Bilawal’s move to Lahore is the party’s last-ditch endeavour to breathe life into the ailing Punjab chapter.
“The elders of PPP as well as the youth feel Bilawal is the only hope for them. If he does not break the status quo and challenge policies of the PML-N, there will be a disaster in Punjab,” she told Dawn.
She added that no party could grow or be sustained without a strong presence in Punjab which she said was the “backbone province” for remaining politically relevant.
“PML-N has always focused on this specific area, never on Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan… always on this specific political platform because this is the trendsetter province.”
Punjab was neglected by the PPP in the recent past, she admitted. “I met Zardari yesterday and pleaded the case of the people of Punjab. Only those political parties will occupy space in Punjab who will pursue aggressive politics. Punjab is not the place to teach morals or democracy — if you notice only movies based on themes of aggression and revenge are a hit. Characters like Maula Jatt and Nurie Natt have mass appeal.”
She also said that the PML-N had succeeded as an influence in the province because it had successfully cultivated its bureaucratic structure for political power.
When asked how 26-year-old Bilawal will fare in unchartered political territory like Punjab, having been exposed partially only to Karachi politics, she said, “Even Benazir Bhutto was from Karachi. It is not that he[Bilawal] is not aware of the political structure of Punjab. His mother, his genes and his blood have sensitised him about the geo-political situation of Punjab. Even though it is a big challenge to divert that political clout in his favour, I am sure he is capable of tackling this.”
“If Bilawal is mentally prepared that he has to really create his own space and identity in the future of the coming political landscape, he has to separate himself from the PML-N friendship alliance. It is not a sellable alliance,” Ms Awan said.
Published in Dawn, October 9th, 2014