LAHORE - The new team of Bilawal Bhutto would be a mixed bag comprising people with mixed abilities.

In a meeting he chaired yesterday at Bilawal House, the PPP chairman rejected a proposal from party lawmakers from Punjab that his new team should comprise the youngsters only.

“My team would be a mix of new talent and experience”, he was quoted as having told Senator Aitzaz Ahsan who asked him to sideline all the old faces now sitting around him.

An insider who attended the meeting confided to The Nation that Bilawal wanted to lead a team of his own comprising people of diverse experience which will have room for both old and young.

The Senator from Lahore had pleaded that it was vital for party’s revival that youngsters should be its face to confront the new challenges. “Please change the party face. You should have youngsters sitting on your left and right”, Aitzaz advised the party chairman, adding that the role of old party guards should be to remain behind the scene and support the young team.

Bilawal, on the other hand, said that there was no substitute for experience which he termed a much needed thing for party’s revival. “My new team of youngsters would work under the guidance of senior party men to benefit from their experience. I need you as much as the youngsters”, a party source quoted Bilawal as having said.

Mr Ahsan also suggested that party should take a clear stance on issues to make it easier for the vocal party men to defend the party policies.

Party’s central Punjab president Mian Manzoor Wattoo asked Bilawal to form a new team for Punjab immediately. He also told him that it was time to do real opposition in Punjab province.

Bilawal promised to have personal interaction with party workers in future on a suggestion by Member Punjab Assembly Faiza Malik who asked him to open the gates of Bilawal House on party workers especially from Lahore. “It is part of my strategy to personally meet party leaders and workers, and this is what my mother was known for. She would know many workers by their names because of her personal interactions”, Bilawal told the lady lawmaker, adding that it was also in his plans to meet the estranged party men to bring them back into the party fold.

Also, Bilawal individually met a few senior party leaders from Punjab who have been ignored by the leadership in the past. It was after a long time that he had separate meetings with leaders like Qasim Zia, Makhdum Shahabuddin, Rana Aftab and Imtiaz Safdar Warraich. These leaders except for Mr Shahabuddin, have not been in the good books of his father Asif Ali Zardari for quite some time.

He also met Rana Tanvir Riaz advocate, a PTI ticket holder from Kasur who announced to join the PPP along with his supporters.

On the last leg of his Lahore visit, PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari will chair two separate meetings of party’s central and southern Punjab organizations at Bilawal House on Tuesday afternoon.

Party’s organizational matters will be the focus of discussions, according to party sources who added the agenda indicated that the current leadership in Punjab would remain intact for the time being.

Earlier, a change in the present leadership was on the cards after the local bodies’ elections which concluded on December 5 last.

While the southern Punjab president Makhdum Ahmed Mehmud was always likely to retain his job but there had been reports that central Punjab president Mian Manzoor Wattoo could be removed owing to his dismal performance. He had even submitted his resignation with the top leadership in the middle of local polls but he was asked to continue to lead his organization till their completion.

Insiders in the PPP say that party’ poor show in the last elections should have acted as catalyst to revamp the party cadres in Punjab, a province which determines which party would rule in the centre. “The status quo will only further harm the party at a time when another rival party, the PTI, was eyeing to occupy the space created by the PPP”, commented a PPP legislator who wanted an immediate change in Punjab.