ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Peoples Party chief Bilawal Zardari is furious over the embarrassing performance of his candidates in the crunch by-election where the rival parties stole the show. The PPP was hardly discussed in the much hyped by-election as it was never seriously considered a challenge to the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) and the Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf.

PML-N candidate Ayaz Sadiq won the main battle in NA-122 Lahore securing 74,525 votes. His strongest rival, PTI candidate Abdul Aleem Khan, got 72,082 votes and was the runners up. PPP’s Barrister Aamir Hasan was at number three with a disappointing 819 votes. In PP-147 Lahore PTI candidate M Shoaib Siddiqui won securing 31964 votes. PML-N candidate Mohsin Latif was the runners up with 28402 votes. And the PPP had to bite the dust with 758 votes cast for its nominee Iftikhar Shahid Advocate.

In NA-144 Okara independent Riazul Haq Juj surprised everyone by beating his rivals with a huge margin. He received 83220 votes against PML-N’s Ali Arif Chaudhry who was runner up with 41050 votes. Only 7180 votes were cast for PTI’s Ashraf Sohna who has recently quit the PPP. Chaudhry Sajjadul Hassan of the PPP was nowhere in the contest securing under 2000 votes. The results clearly showed the PPP had not recovered from the 2013 drubbing and something needed to be done to revive any hopes.

“Bilawal is naturally not happy. He contacted (Asif Ali) Zardari and shared his disappointment. Zardari too was not happy over the results but he felt the PPP could not have expected too much in these constituencies,” a close aide of the PPP chief told The Nation yesterday. He said that Bilawal Zardari advocated for change in Punjab sooner than later to bring the party back in contention. “There is no disagreement on change but they are undecided on the timing,” he added.

There have been rumours that Bilawal was not too happy with the PPP provincial leaders in Punjab and believed they must take responsibility for the falling popularity graph of the party. Senior PPP leader Qamar Zaman Kaira said the party did not have any great expectations from the by-election but the thrashing of its candidates was beyond even the wild imaginations. Kaira told The Nation the party was planning its future strategy to improve its standing in Punjab. “Changes are always on. The party is considering this,” he added.

He said that the constituencies may not have been the PPP strongholds but a few hundred votes show “somebody tried to sideline it.” The former information minister said even if five votes had been cast in a polling booth for the PPP, the numbers would have been much higher than what the results depicted. Kaira suspected PPP supporters voted for the PTI and the PML-N amid media painting a gloomy picture for the party. “The PPP was not even considered as a third force in the by-election,” he remarked, adding the anti-Nawaz voters might have favoured the PTI candidates and the anti-Imran could have gone for the PML-N to make sure their “votes are not wasted.” He said the PPP was down in Punjab but certainly had the capacity to make a comeback. “It is a difficult situation for us but we hope to bounce back,” he contended.

Punjab used to be the stronghold of the PPP during Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s time but the party slowly lost its grip giving away to the PML-N and others. In the last general elections, the PPP won just eight seats in the Punjab Assembly and three in the National assembly from the largest province of the country.