LAHORE - On the 88th birthday of PPP founder Z.A Bhutto, senior party leaders were seen discussing the issue of presence of an anti-Zardari group within the party.

Dubbed as ‘gang of four’ by circles close to Asif Ali Zardari, this group is allegedly working against the party interests. It wants that Zardari should hand over the party reins to young Bilawal and himself act as patron without coming at the forefront.

Bilawal’s senior advisor Bashir Riaz had organized the event at Bilawal House Lahore to mark the day. It was a selective gathering of like-minded party men who could be best described as ‘Zardari loyalists’. Those who don’t want to see the party co-chairman playing an active role were not invited at the gathering.

Jehangir Badr, Manzoor Ahmad Wattoo, Makhdum Ahmad Mehmud, Beelum Hasnain, Samina Khalid Ghurki and Altaf Qureshi spoke on the occasion. Aurangzeb Burki, Navid Ch, Abdul Qadir Shaheen, Munawar Anjum and Bushra Aitzaz were prominent among the audience.

Admitting that an anti-Zardari group does exist in the party, Jehangir Badr in his speech said that PPP workers had defeated the ‘gang of four’ in the past also and will do the same now to rout the present one. He said that workers would not tolerate grouping in the party.

Talking about dissension in the party, party’s southern Punjab president Makhdum Ahmad Mehmud said Benazir Bhutto was called ‘Charoan sooboan ki zanjeer’ (the chain that binds the four provinces), but now the party stood divided in groups. “Every group has its separate slogan”, he said. He insisted that PPP was still a force to reckon with. “No party can defeat the PPP in the next elections, especially in the south Punjab”, he averred.

Manzoor Wattoo said that he had asked Bilawal Bhutto to form his own team and stay in Punjab to revive the party. A group of PPP activists raised slogans against Wattoo during his speech but he remained undeterred.

Some party workers including Arif Kashmiri were also given the opportunity to give vent to their grievances. They demanded that PPP should play the role of a real opposition to save the party. They also moaned that those who rendered sacrifices for the party had been ignored while those with little or no contribution had assumed leadership roles.

All leaders in their speeches paid tribute to the party founder Z.A Bhutto for leading the nation at a difficult time in country’s history. They remembered him for giving a new constitution and a nuclear programme to the country. They said Bhutto’s philosophy was still relevant to steer the country out of the current problems.

Later, the jiayalas lodged a protest with the leadership for not sharing the birthday cake with them. The organizers this time chose to keep the workers away from the cake-cutting venue to avoid embarrassing scenes of their traditional fight to have their share of the cake.