LAHORE - Bilawal Bhutto Zardari who spent four busy days in Lahore this week is not in a hurry to make changes in the party setup as against the speculations making round in the party circles for a quite some time.

Background interviews with senior party leaders who met Bilawal in the last four days suggest the party chairman has no intention to make a quick reshuffle in the Punjab organization. “He wants to have extensive interactions with the party leaders and workers at divisional and district levels before taking any such decision,” a source privy to Bilawal’s meetings with party leaders told The Nation yesterday.

He believed that the existing setup in the Punjab would continue for longer than expected. According to him, Bilawal was on a talent hunt to raise his new team, an exercise which may take some time. “He wants to interview maximum number of party members at the grassroots level to find capable men and women who have the stamina and potential to work under difficult circumstances,” he said.

Another source claimed Manzoor Wattoo who resigned last month, accepting responsibility for the party’s defeat in LG polls has got a green signal from Bilawal to continue working on his current assignment. Previously, the name of Secretary Information Qamar Zaman Kaira was under consideration as the possible replacement for Wattoo. But most recently his name surfaced among the ‘gang of four’, a group of party men allegedly conspiring against Asif Ali Zardari.

“Now the leadership is looking for other options,” said the source seeking anonymity. He said the party circles were attaching much importance to recent meetings of Bilawal with former Punjab president Qasim Zia and former general secretary Rana Aftab Ahmad Khan. Both these leaders have been ignored in the past, but now Bilawal wants them to play role in revival of the party in the Punjab, he said, adding they could be given some important offices in the province in the days to come.

It has been further leant that young Bilawal is very much clear about the contours of his future team. He wants to select his team purely on the basis of merit. He has been successful in creating an impression that unlike his father, he is not going to dole out important portfolios to people only because they happen to be scions of senior party leaders. “If any senior leader decides to retire from politics and wants his children to be given important party offices, they will have to prove their suitability for the job,” said a source quoting Bilawal as having told a group of PPP leaders who met him recently.

Since the time he has been handed over the party reins by his father, Bilawal is consistently being pushed by the party elders to raise his own team as soon as possible. Two former prime ministers, Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani, Raja Pervaiz Ashraf and other party men, including Ch Aitzaz Ahsan, are on the record advising the chairman to select a team of his own people, comprising youngsters.

These leaders have also told him that selecting a new team would be consistent with the policy of his grandfather, father and mother as all the three had chosen their own kitchen cabinet to run the party affairs in the past.

Party men from the Punjab have now come to the conclusion that Bilawal does not seem to be in a rush to make the much-awaited changes. He wants to take his time to make an assessment of the ground realities and then go for a decision accordingly, they believe.

Also, those who met Bilawal in the last four days are of the view that they have found him a changed person this time. “In the previous interactions he was merely a good listener as he would then prefer not to respond to those meeting him. Now he has started asserting himself. It is a big change,” they said, adding his latest warning to the party leaders involved in internal strife came as a surprise for many.

BILAWAL REACHES CAPITAL

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari reached Islamabad yesterday afternoon after four-day stay in Lahore.

At Bilawal House, he had extensive interactions with party men and also met with disgruntled party leaders from Punjab to woo them to work for the party again.

Party sources said he will spend one week in the capital where he is scheduled to meet party office-bearers from KPK, FATA and AJK.

Bakhtawar and Aseefa who remained with her in Lahore have reached Karachi to stay there.

On Wednesday, Bilawal had separate meetings with Zaka Ashraf, Samina Khalid Ghurki, Faisal Mir, Munawar Anjum, Aslam Gill and Khawaja Ataullah Shah. He sought suggestions from these leaders to revive the party.