LAHORE - A soft-spoken Bilawal yesterday turned harsh on party men when they blamed PPP’s tainted image for party’s rout in the recent Local Bodies elections.

He also snubbed some leaders on the issue of ‘gang of four’ when Nadeem Afzal Chan, one of the suspects of the alleged gang, complained that Bashir Riaz, Bilawal’s media Adviser, was behind the media campaign against senior party leaders.

As per insiders account, this happened as he was chairing a meeting of party’s central Punjab organisation at Bilawal House here on Tuesday. The agenda of the meeting was to analyze the factors which led to party’s defeat in Punjab.

On the question of party’s dismal performance in the local polls, local PPP leaders reportedly made excuses to cover up their own failures.

“Nobody was willing to contest election on PPP ticket due its tainted image among the masses”, Raja Riaz from Faisalabad told Bilawal when asked to explain his position.

Firdous Aashiq Awan from Sialkot added that PPP’s symbol, ‘arrow’, had infact become a symbol of defeat and electables rushed towards rival parties for a ticket.

It was too much for young Bilawal who, according to a source, responded by a volley of questions. “You were Ministers when the party was in power from 2008 to 2013”. “You were the leaders at that time”.

How many candidates did you field in the elections. “How many of your brothers, cousins and other relatives were in the contest? Were you in touch with the party workers while in power?”

Poor Raja and Ms Awan had no other option but to keep quite.

For many party men attending the meeting, Bilawal’s aggressive posture was something unusual. “He acted like a leader for the first time”, commented one of the participants who also said that it was an indication that Bilawal was not going to tolerate sluggish attitude of party leaders any more.

When one of Zardari’s political coordinators, Nadeem Afzal Chan raised the issue of ‘gang of four’ blaming Bashir Riaz for leading a media campaign against four party men, Bilawal seemed quite upset as if he did not like such issues to be discussed so openly in official meetings.

Meanwhile, Bashir Riaz rose from his chair and sought permission to respond to the allegation. “I stand by each and every word I have written in my column”, he said, adding, that these people had eliminated the name of Asif Ali Zardari from the last election campaign. They also opposed nomination of Asif Zardari as PPP-P’s President, he said.

Bilawal intervened and said he would not tolerate groupings within the party. “I don’t want to see any such stories appearing in the media any more. I won’t tolerate any leg-pulling”, he snubbed the party men involved in squabbling.

“I know who is doing what! I know how the people are planted in the political parties! I know who is who and what is what!”, Bilawal went on to state.

When the performance of Mian Manzoor Ahmad Wattoo was put to question, Bilawal came to his defence, stating that he was never allowed to work freely by his rivals in the party. “He was made PPP’s central Punjab President just before the 2013 elections and did not have enough time to strengthen the party. In fact he was not allowed to work freely by opponent groups”, he said.

PPP’s Secretary Information, Qamar Zaman Kaira who is also among the suspected ‘gang of four’ leaders was conspicuous by his silence during the meeting. But he did brief the media about the proceedings when the meeting was over. He told reporters that it had been decided to strengthen the party by organising conventions at the local level.

Bilawal also chaired a meeting of party’s South Punjab organisation in the evening. This meeting went smooth, according to sources who also quoted Bilawal as having told local party leaders that they were the field commanders to lead the party for all practical purposes.

Bilawal reportedly agreed to a proposal by Southern Punjab President Makhdum Ahmad Mehmood to hold open courts at district level to interact with the people at grass roots level.

Also, Bilawal went to the residence of senior lawyer, Asma Jahangir who had arranged a reception in honour of senior lawyers to congratulate them on their victory in the recent elections of different bar associations in Punjab.