LAHORE - Finally the former president Asif Ali Zardari and his son Bilawal Bhutto have reached a mutual understanding to segregate the party business with clearly defined jurisdictions.

Under this arrangement, Bilawal would lead the PPP whereas Zardari would look after the affairs of the PPP-P. These two parallel organizations representing the same party exist separately on paper for all practical purposes. Party sources said that a decision to this effect was made much earlier but it has now been officially confirmed by the leadership.

It has been learnt that young Bilawal has been given free hand to make whatever decisions he likes to run the party (PPP) under his command. He would have full powers to make changes in the party organization and to hire the services of veteran party men to assist him on party’s organisational matters.  

Bilawal, of late, took a very important decision by hiring senior party leader Jehangir Badr as his political secretary. This is the office once held by Naheed Khan who worked closely with slain PPP leader Benazir Bhutto for a long time. PPP circles claim that Badr is not in the good books of Asif Ali Zardari who removed him from the position of party secretary general some two years back. He was not even in favour of granting him party ticket to contest the last Senate elections. It was on Bilawal’s intervention that he was given a seat in the Senate, they say.

Already, Bilawal has chosen a team of his advisers comprising party loyalists who once worked with his mother. They include Bashir Riaz, Ghazanfar Gull, Jehangir Badr and Barrister Masood Kousar. Badr has now been elevated to the position of political secretary. It is noteworthy that Hashham Riaz Sheikh is already working on this position for the last over one year. He is son of Ahmad Riaz Sheikh, one of Zardari’s confidants.  

Party sources believe this decision may generate a conflict of interest between the two political secretaries.  

The decision to bifurcate party business between the son and father was made after Bilawal reportedly refused to listen to his father on party matters. Zardari also admitted this fact in a recent meeting with party men. “Bilawal does not even listen to me,” he complained.

As per the legal position, Bilawal has already been nominated as Patron-in-Chief of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) with Sardar Latif Khan Khosa as secretary general and Qamar Zaman Kaira as central secretary information. This party was registered in the Election Commission of Pakistan some two years back when Naheed Khan and Dr Safdar Abbasi, now leading a separate faction of the PPP, approached the ECP to have this nomenclature (PPP) for their organisation.  

It merits mentioning here that Bhutto’s party has been contesting the last three general elections under the banner of Pakistan People’s Party Parliamentarians (PPP-P). This was necessitated when the ECP cancelled registration of the PPP during the rule of General (R) Pervez Musharraf and declined to register it again with this name.

The PPP-P has its representation in the Parliament and the provincial assemblies while the PPP consists of only the party office-bearers at the central, provincial and district levels.  

Though on paper, the PPP-P is led by Makhdoom Amin Fahim, but in actual terms it is always Asif Ali Zardari and his sister Faryal Talpur who are calling the shots. Former prime minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf is the secretary general of this organisation.   

Interestingly, the two organisations have been allowed to follow different policies on different issues. While the PPP-P led by Asif Ali Zardari would continue to harp on the string of political reconciliation with other parties, especially the PML-N, the one headed by Bilawal, may take an altogether different line. A manifestation of this dual policy was witnessed on October 18 when Bilawal in his speech on the occasion of a public rally acted like a hawk in the party.

He grilled almost all the political parties much to the annoyance of the MQM which later quit the Sindh coalition in protest. Mr Altaf Hussain also took up the matter with Asif Zardari but only to listen that “Bilawal does not listen to me”.