By Zia Ur Rehman
Monday, June 08, 2015
To revamp the Pakistan People’s Party’s organisational structure across the country and prepare for the upcoming local bodies polls in Sindh and Punjab, the party is set to use the “Bilawal card”.
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, the PPP chief and Bhutto family scion, has returned to Karachi after his six month sojourn in the United Kingdom. Bilawal left Pakistan in November last year amid rumours of differences with his father, Asif Ali Zardari. Despite announcements, he did not return to Pakistan on the death anniversaries of his mother, Benazir Bhutto, and grandfather, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.
However, after returning to the country, Bilawal is heavily involved in the party’s political affairs and has held meetings with its leaders and provincial ministers.
Shah Jahan Khan, a Karachi-based PPP leader and the Sindh chief minister’s coordinator, said Bilawal’s participation in the party’s political affairs after his return to the country had breathed new life into the PPP.
“Bilawal will soon visit the entire country, including Punjab where elections will be held in the coming months, and revive the party’s jiyala culture,” he told The News.
Khan said Bilawal had also asked the party leadership to start a coordination drive with the jiyalas – die-hard PPP activists – as most of them were disappointed because of his long absence.
Fit for competitive politics
Political observers say that Bilawal’s return to active politics can help the PPP regain its lost areas, especially after the emergence of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf.
Manzoor Isran, an international relations professor at the Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto Institute of Science and Technology in Karachi, said Pakistani politics had now changed and become more competitive after the emergence of new trends.
“Bilawal is now fit for such politics as he is young and has studied from a prestigious academic institute. He has a better know-how of politics, governance and development,” he added.
“His mother and grandfather were dominant personalities for PPP activists, and he too is also an inspiring presence for them.
Bilawal has also chaired a meeting to discuss Karachi’s water woes and asked the Sindh government to find an early solution to the problem.
Fazal Mabood, a social activist, said it showed that Bilawal was trying to regain the party’s popularity in Sindh.
He added that the PPP should now concentrate on good governance, infrastructural development and delivery of basic services, especially after the launch of projects such as metro buses by the Punjab government.
A section of analysts and party leaders think that Bilawal will have to face several challenges in restoring the party’s popularity.
“For Bilawal, the main issue is the internal fissures among the PPP’s ranks that caused the party’s defeat in the recent elections,” said Sartaj Khan, a Karachi-based political analyst.
He added that PPP activists were becoming increasingly dejected over the party leadership not giving them the kind of “attention” that Benazir gave.
The PPP leaders, who are familiar with its recent affairs, say that the party will use the “Bilawal card” by organising its young leader’s visits across the country to win public support while his father, Zardari, will settle the differences within the party.
However, analysts say that security threats would be major hurdle for Bilawal in his visits.
“Unlike the leaders of rightwing political parties, Bilawal can’t travel that much,” said a PPP leader at Bilawal House in Karachi. “The party has been devising a strategy for his security.”
For analysts, inconsistency is also a key challenge for Bilawal, citing his recent six month absence from politics, which, they believe, has disappointed a large segment of party activists across the country.
Bilawal’s harsh statements against the Muttahida Qaumi Movement and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz had caused differences between him and his father, said party insiders. However, they insisted that this time, the PPP’s central leadership has asked Bilawal to refrain giving such statements against the two parties.
There were mixed reactions in Lyari, the PPP’s stronghold in Lyari, on Bilawal’s return to politics.
“We [the residents of Lyari] have an ideological relationship with the Bhutto family and Bilawal’s face reminds us of Bibi [Benazir],” said Jan Muhammad, 54, a resident of Sango Lane in Lyari.
“He [Bilawal] should concentrate on Karachi, especially on Lyari, where his party leaders are responsible for worsening the law and order situation,” he added.
Abu Bakar Baloch, a journalist who lives in Lyari, said the residents of Lyari were disappointed with the PPP and Bilawal.
“He is not coming to Pakistan for the first time. The residents of Lyari had welcomed him in October last year. But what did the PPP do with Lyari and its resident?” he asked.
The journalists said because of the absence of any alternative political force in Lyari and other suburban areas of the city, the PPP could regain its lost support in the city provided Bilawal made some popular decisions.
Azeem Kuthchi, a political activist in Bihar Colony, said the residents of Lyari were silently boycotting the upcoming PPP rally.
“It’s true that the residents of Lyari have a strong and emotional attachment with the PPP since its inception, but sadly the party leadership has always misused it,” he added.