LAHORE - As a complete revamping of the PPP is on the cards, former President Asif Ali Zardari is under pressure from the party men to sideline his courtiers whom they hold responsible for party’s defeat in the last general elections.
Though currently not holding any party office, Zardari is de facto Chairman of the PPP with young Bilawal as its patron-in-chief.
He had relinquished the office of Co-Chairman in March this year to honour a court decision requiring him to quit the political office.
Two former Prime Ministers-Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani and Raja Pervaiz Ashraf are at the top of the list of the courtiers of the former President who had been calling shots in the last five years.
Among those who had been very close to Asif Zardari during the period but are hated by party men also include some of the former Federal Ministers.
The workers have numerous complaints against the ex-Ministers who would keep them at a distance while they held important positions in the government. The most detested among those is Mian Manzoor Ahmad Wattoo to whom the party men consider an alien to the PPP cadres. Party men have also a poor opinion of former senior Punjab Minister Raja Riaz.
A majority view in the PPP is that the two ex-Prime Ministers and their Cabinet members brought a bad name to the party by their involvement in the corruption scandals. Many also believe that PPP lost the last election due to bad performance of the team selected by Asif Ali Zardari.
As the top leadership is considering complete revamping of the party organisations at all levels, the party cadres want that these Ministers should have no business with party affairs and may be ‘dumped’ in the party think tank.
The level of resentment against Zardari’s associates is such that at a meeting at Bilawal House held immediately after the elections, party men openly criticised the performance of two former Prime Ministers in his presence. Keeping in view the sentiments of the party activists, only one chair was placed at the stage at the last party meeting at the same place. The occasion was a farewell reception for the outgoing President.
All former Federal Ministers were asked to sit among the workers instead of sitting with the party chief.
Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, though present at the Bilawal House at that time, stayed back in the room to avoid wrath of the angry workers.
As per sources, party men want to see leaders like Senator Raza Rabbani, Senator Aitzaz Ahsan and Qamar Zaman Kaira at important positions in the new set up. Of these, Aitzaz has already taken the centre stage and is seen leading from the front on all important occasions.
He is also busy these days compiling a report on the defeat of party candidates in the last elections. He has also been tasked to formulate suggestions to galvanise the party.
Sources close to Asif Zardari confided to The Nation that though he did not want to remove Mian Manzoor Wattoo from Presidentship of central Punjab, he would have to do so to satisfy the party men. Central Punjab General Secretary Tanvir Ashraf Kaira is likely to retain his office being a non-controversial man in the party. Sources also informed that Zardari wants Qasim Zia, a senior party leader, to play an active role to galvanise the party in Punjab but Qasim Zia is reportedly not willing to accept any such responsibility, perhaps for the reason that he was not given his right place in the party after the assassination of Benazir Bhutto.
Drastic changes are likely in the PPP’s Lahore chapter also to purge it of the deadwood. Old leaders like Jehangir Badr, Mian Misbahur Rehman and Azizur Rehman Chan are most likely to be shown the door. The latter arranged an impressive firework show a couple of days before to welcome Asif Zardari at the Bilawal House in an attempt to please his leader.
Among the likely changes in the party organisation, Aitzaz would either be made party’s Secretary General or may be entrusted with the responsibility of leading the party in Punjab where the PPP performed poorly in the last elections grabbing only one National Assembly seat. If he is made Secretary General then Qamar Zaman Kaira would be made Punjab President.
Raza Rabbani would be given some important position in the party’s central command.
Ch Ahmad Mukhtar is also likely to get some party office in Punjab. Workers are happy with Mukhtar as he would listen to their grievances as Federal Minister.
The names of Shazia Marri and Farzana Raja are also under consideration for the office of Secretary Information. The changes are likely to take effect in three months.