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ISLAMABAD: A number of Pakistan Peoples Party leaders believe that an inordinate delay in the grass-roots level reorganisation, wrong selection of candidates and electioneering on a single-point agenda of “corruption” are the main causes of the party’s humiliating defeats in the recently held by-elections.

The PPP leaders and central office-bearers, speaking about the internal discussions within the party after the recent defeats, said genuine party workers, known as “jiyalas”, were not seen anywhere during campaigns for all the by-polls.

The PPP, which was once known as the party of the federation, faced embarrassment in by-elections, in Lahore, Peshawar and Lodhran, where its candidates miserably failed to compete with the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf. Even the candidates belonging to the Tehreek Labbaik Ya Rasool Allah managed to secure more votes than the PPP candidates.

“How can you expect to win elections without the support of workers?” asked a senior PPP leader and former office-bearer from Punjab. He was of the opinion that there was a dire need to “motivate disgruntled workers” and reg­retted that presently there was no charismatic leadership that could bring these “jiyalas” out of hibernation.

Referring to the defeats in NA-120 Lahore, NA-4 Peshawar and NA-154 Lodhran, the PPP leader said the leadership had awarded tickets to wrong persons. “In Lahore, we ignored the call of the local organisation and awarded the ticket to an outsider,” he said.

Apparently annoyed over the leadership’s criteria for awarding party tickets, a senior PPP leader said that in Lodhran the party had given the authority of awarding the ticket to a person who had not only quit the party in the past, but also used objectionable language against its leadership. And that person, he added, awarded the ticket to his son instead of contesting the election himself.

“The local party workers and organisation perhaps did not like this act of the leadership. Hence they stayed away from the campaign,” he added.

Similarly, he said, in Peshawar the party had given the ticket to the son of a deceased Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf MNA and the party’s local chapter totally rejected the decision.

Another important factor behind the party’s defeats, the PPP leader said, was an excessive focus of the parties and the media on “corruption and accountability”.

He regretted that the media had ignored other public issues, such as poverty, economy, agriculture, closure of industries and unemployment, whereas corruption was being highlighted as the only problem facing the country.

The PPP leader said there was no doubt that corruption was a menace that had hit the country hard, but it did not mean that other important public issues should be put on the back burner. He was of the opinion that since the disclosure of the Panama Papers leaks, every election in the country had been contested on the single-point agenda of corruption.

He said the party had suffered because of this trend as due to the negative propaganda against the PPP leadership, the people had a wrong perception about the party when they talked about corruption.

PPP information secretary Chaudhry Manzoor Ahmed said it was because of a number of “wrong decisions” that the party had to face the present embarrassing situation. He said the results of by-elections were always in favour of the ruling party and the PPP had been winning by-elections in Sindh.

He said the party was concerned about the recent defeats and the issue would soon be discussed at the Central Executive Committee meeting and they would come to the public with their point of view on the issue.

PPP secretary general Farhatullah Babar said they had already held a number of meetings to discuss the issue. “We have reviewed our weaknesses and strengths. We have reviewed organisational matters. A lot of discussions have taken place, but we did not publicise them,” he said.

“We are conscious of the setbacks the party has recently suffered,” Mr Babar said, adding that they had even taken some decisions, but these could not disclose at the moment.

A senior PPP leader from Lahore and former Punjab information secretary, Naveed Chaudhry, said the party had already launched a membership drive and people were taking keen interest in it. He said the party had taken part in the by-elections on the directive of chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari that no election should go uncontested.

Naveed Chaudhry admitted that the party had to take part in the by-elections at a time when the reorganisation was still in process. He expressed the hope that the party workers in Punjab, who had been disgruntled because of the previous policy of reconciliation with the PML-N, would soon become active due to the change in the party’s strategy.

Published in Dawn, February 19th, 2018