ISLAMABAD - United States President-elect Donald Trump’s ‘invitation’ to Pakistan People’s Party Parliamentarians (PPPP) chief Asif Ali Zardari to attend his presidential inauguration on January 20 has boosted his international political standing, giving a push to his bid to return to power after 2018 polls.

Given the fact that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is not among the guest's list, the PPPP is upbeat that Zardari was being treated as a ‘top leader’ who has a future.

The party believes his ‘high-profile’ visit will push up his chances of returning to power in 2018 polls due to his ‘acceptance’ in the US and China. It is also seen as an image-building ahead of the upcoming by-elections, which will mark Zardari’s return to the parliament.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is also expected to visit Washington in a few weeks to meet Trump and discuss the troubled Pak-US ties in addition to the tension with India – the US stands it behind on most issues.

Zardari is currently in Dubai and will remain in the US till February 3. He is also expected to undergo a medical check-up apart from meeting with the US leaders.

On his return, Zardari is set to contest a by-election to enter the National Assembly that has one year and a few months to complete its five-year term in 2018.

PPP chief Bilawal Bhutto Zardari will also join his father in the US after addressing the Faisalabad rally on January 19. He too will contest a by-election to launch his own parliamentary politics career.

Trump, who won the US election against Democrat Hillary Clinton in November, will take oath on January 20 in Washington. This will mark an end to eight-year Democrat rule. Mike Pence will take charge as the vice-president.

Zardari returned from an 18-month self-imposed exile on December 23. He has since been holding meetings to prepare for the by-election and to finalise the future line of action. The father and the son are aiming at reviving the party and forming an alliance with the like-minded parties for the 2018 polls.

PPPP Vice-President Senator Sherry Rehman told The Nation that Zardari had a “packed schedule” in the US. “He will meet several republicans and key democrat leaders,” she said.

The lawmaker, who is part of Zardari’s US-bound delegation, said: “This is obviously not a state or official visit but it represents an engagement cycle that is about sustained public ties with the global community.”

She added: “I cannot speak to the fact of who will attend which event or not from Pakistan, as the US presidential inaugural is always set within a cascade of public events with multiple hosts including transition team members and interlocutors.”

She said Zardari usually has several key engagements with opinion makers and legislators in the US at this time of year. “Bilawal Bhutto will follow for other meetings including the National Prayer Breakfast in early February where the Bhutto family has a standing annual invitation.”

Senator Rehman said the PPP had maintained ties with many legislators and reciprocated policy outreach. “We have not sought a meeting with the President-elect at this transition point but will meet with members of the Congressional committees and policy community in Washington,” she added.

The PPPP leader said while the government of Pakistan had its own decisive role in shaping bilateral ties, “our party leadership stays engaged with the global community in Pakistan's best interests.”

Senator Rehman said despite taking inclusionary policy positions during the PPPP governments in foreign policy, which resulted in the closure of US bases in Pakistan, “the PPP believes that peace, stability and the rule of law that benefit citizens should be key objectives of any global order, and Pakistan as a whole must be defined by its role as a key sovereign actor that is part of the stabilisation solution in the region's struggle against violent extremism.”

She said her party will continue to amplify its message of building an “inclusive, progressive Pakistan” at a critical time in changes in the global order, with “diplomatic ties to all countries” that trade and invest with Pakistan. She pointed out that PPPP had maintained “durable ties with both China and America.”

Another PPPP leader said invitations to some inaugural events did not mean all of them will be attended. “They are often too big and unwieldy,” he said.

PPPP Secretary General Senator Farhatullah Babar said Zardari had scheduled the US visit much earlier for a medical check-up. “After completing his engagements in the US, he will return as we are preparing for the by-elections,” he said.

Senator Babar said the PPPP had always advocated good ties with the US, China and other countries.