ISLAMABAD: In what appears to be a shut-up call to opponents within the party of PPP’s Punjab president Manzoor Ahmed Wattoo, Co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari has praised him for his dedication to organise the party ahead of local bodies’ polls in the province.
“Co-chairman of the PPP and former president Asif Ali Zardari has expressed appreciation for the dedication and commitment of Mian Manzoor Wattoo in organising the party cadres in the province in preparation for the local bodies’ polls,” says a statement issued here by the party’s media office.
Mr Zardari talked to Mr Wattoo by telephone from Dubai amid reports that the latter was being removed from the office of the PPP Punjab president because of the strong opposition he faces within the party.
He said that Mr Wattoo had “earned the respect of many for leading the provincial chapter of the party with confidence and ability even under most difficult conditions”.
When contacted, PPP spokesman Farhatullah Babar said the statement had been issued after media reports that the party was planning to change its set-up in Punjab.
He said certain party members, who were not happy with Mr Wattoo for some reasons, fed media after every party meeting that the PPP leadership had decided to remove him from the office. This happened again after last week’s “courtesy call” by some PPP members on Mr Zardari in Dubai when the media reported that the party’s Punjab set-up was being changed, he added.
Similarly, he said, when PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari held meetings in Islamabad with office-bearers of different party chapters of Punjab last month the media had reported that the participants called for Mr Wattoo’s removal. The party had to issue a clarification that Mr Wattoo was not being removed, he said.
In response to a question, Mr Babar said he could not blame the media because some elements within the party had misled journalists.
He said that after Mr Zardari’s statement it should now be clear that there was no plan to make any changes in the party’s set-up in Punjab and Sindh at least till the completion of the local government elections.
The PPP spokesman said the party had already announced to hold fresh intra-party elections in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
He also denied reports that Asif Zardari had abdicated his responsibilities as co-chairman of the party, terming them “exaggerated and not based on reality”.
“Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and Asif Zardari are functioning as chairman and co-chairman, respectively, and there is no change in it,” Mr Babar added.
Published in Dawn, September 24th, 2015