• PPP leader downplays episode
• Observers believe it to be ploy to boost Bilawal’s political image
ISLAMABAD: After PPP Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari publicly disowned a statement about elections made by his father Asif Ali Zardari, some party insiders said the disagreement was an attempt by the former to step out of his father’s shadow while for some it was a ‘cosmetic’ confrontation to woo the disgruntled youth.
PPP insiders said the former foreign minister was trying to run the party in a democratic manner and his opposition to the unilateral stance of Mr Zardari also stemmed from this fact. They said this was not the first time, as Mr Bhutto-Zardari had opposed his father on multiple issues during party meetings.
On the other hand, naysayers believe the difference of opinion was meant to give political mileage to the PPP chairperson in the run-up to the general elections. “It is hard to believe that they are at loggerheads,” they said.
A day earlier, Mr Bhutto-Zardari disowned his father’s statement regarding elections after the completion of the delimitation process.
He asserted that elections should be held in 90 days — in line with the meeting of the PPP central executive committee which called for elections to be held in 90 days.
According to a source, the CEC meeting also witnessed disagreements between the PPP chairperson and the former president, since the latter supported polls after the delimitation process while the former backed polls in 90 days.
The source said it was not the first time that the two party leaders were not on the same page as it had happened many times in the recent past. In some instances, Mr Bilawal opposed his father in the meetings and in some he managed to convince the former president, as per the insider.
Another PPP leader told Dawn that party leaders and workers were uneasy about the unilateral statement of Mr Zardari which went against the CEC decision and the party policy. They were of the view that Mr Zardari had not asked the party’s CEC to review its decision and instead issued his statement unilaterally.
The question, however, is what will happen to the PPP’s decision-making process which has remained under wraps until now. “Before this, disagreement between Mr Bhutto-Zardari and Mr Zardari was confined to the CEC meetings but now it has come out and therefore it’s a serious issue for the party,” the source said.
PPP leader Farhatullah Babar downplayed the episode and said: “This is not something unusual and should not be seen as such.” “The party has enough resilience to face and overcome such apparent divergence of views,” he added.
Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development And Transparency (Pildat) President Ahmed Bilal Mehboob called the disagreement a “good and healthy sign in the party” which could not be seen in other political parties at present.
He, however, said the PPP chairperson was mindful of the fact that the youth was not standing with the PPP or the PML-N due to the policies of party elders and by making such a remark he wanted to seek the youth’s support in elections. Mr Mehboob supported the point of view of the PPP chief that elections should be held in 90 days.
Analyst Zahid Hussain believed that it was a “tactical move” which suited the party as one of them would stand by the stance of the establishment and the other against it. “It may be a move to boost Bilawal’s image,” he added.
He said such a silent confrontation and disagreement had also been seen between Nawaz Sharif and his brother Shehbaz Sharif, but they had never gone against each other.
‘Not bound by advice’
On Saturday, Mr Bhutto-Zardari while responding to a question about his father’s remarks said: “You should ask Zardari sahib [about delimitations statement]. I can only say that it was the party’s decision [to demand elections within 90 days].
“We both jointly chaired the CEC meeting where our legal experts were sure that the Constitution demands elections within 90 days. I am bound to President Zardari in our family matters, but as far as political matters, the Constitution and party policy are concerned, I am bound to follow my workers and the decisions of the CEC.”
According to the PPP chairperson, “anyone” having objections to party policy should raise it at the relevant forum. “We have a CEC meeting in Lahore in a few days. If anyone has his opinion, they should share it there.”
In similar remarks in August, the PPP chairperson had asked his elders to make politics easier for the next generation instead of making it further difficult. “[Asif] Zardari sahib and Mian [Nawaz Sharif] sahib should take decisions which would make politics easier for me and Maryam Nawaz, instead of making it difficult,” Mr Bhutto-Zardari said while delivering his farewell speech in the National Assembly on Aug 8.
Published in Dawn, September 11th, 2023