LAHORE - As Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has embarked on a plan to galvanise the Pakistan People’s Party in Punjab, his decision to appoint Senator Jehangir Badar as his political secretary is being viewed by many as a bad omen for the party.  

In the days to come, senior party men see dissensions and groupings within party’s Punjab chapter as a result of this decision. They are questioning Jehangir Badar’s utility in the present-day politics and think he no longer enjoyed the confidence of the workers and his contemporaries excluding a particular group of his own.

Background interviews with the PPP men show there is a lot of resentment in the party cadres over the development. A group of the party men from Lahore is planning to register strong protest with Bilawal during his forthcoming visit to Lahore on the occasion of party’s foundation day on November 30.

Some circles in the PPP detest Jehangir Badar for his closeness with Sharif family. “The seriousness of the leadership to defeat the Sharifs politically in Punjab can be gauged from their decision to assign an important role to a person who is known for maintaining friendly relations with the House of Raiwind since years”, deplored a local PPP leader who did not want to be named.

Reportedly, the idea behind appointing Badar on this position is that being a veteran party leader he would act as a bridge between the chairman and the old PPP guards, an influential group of jiyalas currently annoyed with the leadership for being ignored in the past.

It merits mention here that Badar is a PPP loyalist who has served on important positions. He led the party’s Punjab chapter during the days of Benazir Bhutto who later also elevated him to the position of secretary general of the party. He held this position till two years back when Zardari replaced him with Sardar Latif Khan Khosa. His appointment as political secretary to Bilawal has raised a question whether it is a demotion or an elevation.

It has been learnt that young Bilawal has developed a penchant for working closely with ‘uncles’ who once strengthened the hands of his slain mother Benazir Bhutto in her political struggle against dictatorship. “I want to see all those party men around whom I had seen working with my mother”, a PPP source quoted Bilawal as having said in a party meeting.

But this runs counter to the advice Bilawal has got from some senior party men including Senator Aitzaz Ahsan who advised him more than once to raise a new team of young and vibrant leaders who don’t carry any burden of the past.

“Bilawal Bhutto Zardari should not even think of considering people like me while making his political team”, he once told Asif Zardari during a meeting of the PPP’s central executive committee.

The PPP men who are opposed to the decision consider it the beginning point of a possible eruption of rivalry among the party leaders especially between Mian Manzoor Ahmad Wattoo and Jehangir Badar.

The former is in the good books of Asif Ali Zardari while the latter is not. They argue that Badar would be holding sway over the party affairs when Bilawal undertakes his next Punjab visit. He would decide who should meet Bilawal and who should be kept away from him, they said, adding that Wattoo would certainly not like his being sidelined on an important occasion when party would be celebrating its foundation day. Similarly, they say, when Zardari would be in Lahore, it would be Mr Wattoo advising the de facto party chairmen on important matters.

Some, however, view it as a sign of healthy competition. They quote Benazir Bhutto who was used to say that groupings in a party are indicative of how vibrant a party is.

“She would take such things positively and use these as a source of getting different shades of opinion from within the party”, commented a veteran PPP leader Mr Altaf Qureshi who did not see anything wrong with Badar’s appointment as Bilawal’s political secretary.