LAHORE - The crisis in the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) appears to be getting more serious with the passage of time, but the people at the helm are complacent. While some leaders have already quit the PPP many others in the party are in clear disagreement with the policies being pursued at present. As a result, more defections cannot be ruled out.

Former federal minister Firdaus Ashiq Awan, who at a meeting with Bilawal in Karachi submitted her resignation as vice-president of the Punjab organisation, alleges that the PPP has been reduced to what she calls B-team of the ruling PML-N. Known as a weathercock in political circles, the leader from Sialkot also thinks that a major surgery of the party is necessary to make it a potent entity.

Another important leader, Aitzaz Ahsan, who is also leader of the opposition in the Senate, has been quoted as saying at a news conference that the PPP “will be pleased to see the back of PML-N government as the ruling party itself seems keen to sink its ship. The federal government seems tumbling down due to its inefficiency and opposition is not ready to support it.”

Nobody except Mr Asif Ali Zardari is responsible for the situation the party is passing through at present as he alone takes all important decisions. And what Firdaus Ashiq Awan or Aitzaz said amounted to a no-confidence in his pro-PML-N policies or the so-called politics of reconciliation.

Some senior leaders who recently parted ways with the PPP had also expressed serious reservations about the policies and said the party faces an existential threat in the country’s most populous province.

Now look at the way the leadership is trying to shoo off the crisis.

Co-Chairman Zardari, the real party chief, is out of the country (in London) and in his absence Bilawal is holding meetings with the party leaders in Karachi. There is nothing wrong in the meetings. But everyone remembers that only recently the former president had said that Bilawal is “immature” at present and would be launched in politics at an “appropriate time”. The father’s verdict had quashed speculations that the son could replace the opposition leader in the National Assembly (who is also a PPP man) or the Sindh chief minister, who the entire country agrees is nothing more than an obedient servant of the Bilawal House.

The new role that Bilawal has started playing raises some questions. Has he attained maturity over the past few days? Is he capable of playing the role of a troubleshooter?

Another question arises whether the co-chairman has abdicated authority to give a free hand to son Bilawal to run the party? And what if the debutant son fails the first test?

It is pertinent to note that the problem is in Punjab and the troubleshooting is being carried out in Karachi. Is it not possible for Bilawal to come to Lahore and listen to the grievances of the party leaders? He should have reached out to the estranged leaders without waiting for the Eid.

As for the Karachi meetings, a party spokesman has been quoted as saying that Bilawal informed his father that leaders from Punjab had complained that the authorities in the province were pushing the party cadres to the wall. Mr Zardari, the spokesman said, “advised” Bilawal to go to Punjab and reorganise the party immediately after Eidul Fitr.

Once Bilawal comes to Lahore, he may bring about some changes in the party setup to reinvigorate it in a province where it is almost non-existent, dejected or dormant. A lot of effort will be needed to make the presence of the party felt.

In Punjab, the PTI has almost already replaced the PPP as an opposition party. In the Punjab Assembly, the PTI has some 30 MPAs against PPP’s eight. At the federal level, the PPP could get only four NA seats from Punjab against PTI’s nine.

The local government elections to be held in Punjab in September will be the immediate challenge for the party. The PML-N is doing its best to set up as many development projects in Punjab as possible to be able to keep the driving seat of the lowest tier of the government. The PTI is striving to give the ruling party a tough competition. Bilawal will have to do a lot of hard work to bring the party out of oblivion, especially so because the PPP has never taken much interest in the local elections.

The recent frontal attack of Mr Zardari on the generals, endorsed by the party a day later, has also caused colossal damage to the party. No party has supported the onslaught, as a result of which it stands isolated. The explanations of the speech offered by various leaders have not changed the public opinion. Thus, mending fences with the establishment will also an important front for the son to focus on.