Journalists close to party groups see no division of party; say Zardari facing political victimisation
DUBAI: Once a dominating and uniting national democratic force, the PPP, according to political pundits, is now clearly divided into three distinct factions, all drifting in different directions, thanks mainly to the policies, performance, wisdom and words of Asif Ali Zardari.
One faction is led by Mr Zardari himself and consists of the top ruling class, mostly tainted with charges of corruption.The second group is seemingly led by Bilawal Bhutto and includes not so tainted and some old guards of Benazir Bhutto’s set up. The third are the workers and jiyalas of the party who are confused and divided.Some fault lines are very clear.
The Zardari group, analysts say, is on the run, being pursued by law enforcement and mostly abroad, out of touch with the jiyalas. But it is all powerful and calling the shots as far as the running of the party, the government and major decision-making is concerned.
Bilawal and people around him like Sherry Rehman, Qamar Zaman Kaira and others, do not enjoy any power but they have been forced to go out and present the relatively cleaner face of the party. They are the most depressed lot, almost coerced into submission.
Jiyalas are still pursuing the ZA Bhutto-Benazir dream but they do not want anything to do with Zardari or his cohorts. In the entire local bodies polls, PPP candidates made it a point not to bring up Asif Zardari or his pictures as PPP voters get repulsed.
As a result of these big fissures and the performance of the party in the last eight years, PPP has been completely wiped out in Punjab, KPK and Balochistan as well as Karachi.
Analysts believe the only successes it is claiming in rural Sindh are not because of Zardari or Bilawal but because the local candidates are powerful and they have stuck to their old election symbols.
If they had contested on the ticket of any other party they would still have won.So even in rural Sindh, no one raises slogans for Zardari, as seen at Garhi Khuda Bux on BB’s death anniversary or during the LB polls. Same is true of CM Qaim Ali Shah, his ministers and those who have simply bolted abroad after the law enforcement came after them.
These three PPP factions are unable to trust each other or find a common platform. Why is this so? Zardari has too many personal and financial stakes to abandon power within the PPP and so he has stayed on to replace late Makhdoom Amin Fahim as PPPP chief. He was in any case calling the shots as PPP co-chairman. According to reports he does not trust Bilawal and auntie Faryal is always around to spy on and shadow the son.
Bilawal, analysts stress, does not have the fire and the guts of mom Benazir Bhutto to admit and declare that his father was the main cause of the party’s catastrophic state or affairs. He, at least until now, has not been able to break away from the iron grip of his dad.
The jiyalas have been caught in this power game but they have either abstained from voting for the nominees of Mr Zardari or they have shifted parties and moved on. So that accounts for the PPP’s demise in the rest of the country.
Where will the party go from now onwards will depend on how many of Zardari’s associates are nabbed by the law enforcement, NAB or the federal government.
One thing is clear, Nawaz Sharif has picked up his side in this tug of war and has decided to abandon the Charter of Democracy and back the establishment. He has allowed them to go after any one they want.
It is a clever move. If the PPP leadership is caught and convicted, the blame will be taken by the Rangers and the army and Sharif can tell Zardari he was helpless because of the overwhelming evidence against him.
If Zardari and company are not convicted, again the charge of hounding them for political victimization would be leveled against the establishment.
Meanwhile, PPP’s old workers and sympathisers say Mr Bilawal will have to gather his courage and wits to follow her mother who soon after she returned to Pakistan in 1986, dumped her uncles and guardians, including even her mother and brother. That was Benazir and we now have Bilawal.
A few journalists close to three groups of the PPP, when approached, were not ready to accept the existing division in the party. They termed such reports baseless saying Zardari was elected as PPPP president by the party CEC. They said despite so much pressure no forward bloc emerged in the party. They said frictions in the party were witnessed during the local bodies’ polls.
These journalists also said Zardari faced multiple charges during the Musharraf regime but was honorably exonerated by courts from all charges. They believed Zardari is subjected to political victimization and malicious propaganda.
They said all reports about imaginary differences between father and son also proved false. All the speeches delivered by Bilawal were in accordance with the policy of the party.