ISLAMABAD - Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari’s anti-military jibe may be his last as the de facto chief of the PPP, as Bilawal Bhutto Zardari is set to take over the driving seat from his father, political sources said.

“Asif Ali Zardari will now play the same role that Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has been playing since being elected as the Chairman,” a close aide of the Bhutto family told The Nation.

“As you see resignations have started to pour in. More will come and Bilawal Bhutto will reorganise the party,” he said referring to the reported resignations of former Prime Ministers Yousaf Raza Gilani and Raja Pervez Ashraf from the party positions.

Another PPP leader said the Zardari’s tirade created an atmosphere where the party was discussed on the television channels, social media and the newspapers. “Controversies sometimes come as blessings. The decision to handover PPP leadership to Bilawal Bhutto amid all this hue and cry and introduce him in the parliament gives a positivity to an otherwise negative episode,” the PPP leader said.

Talking to The Nation, PPP Spokesman Senator Farhatullah Baber said, “Bilawal was already the boss. We elected him as the chairman and accepted him as our leader.” He added, “I think Bilawal was not using his powers in caution. He was free as the chairman to take any decision but he wanted to wait and evaluate the performance of the office-bearers.”

Senator Baber said the PPP leadership was concerned after disappointing results in recent local bodies and Gilgit-Baltistan elections. “There were different factors, rigging being one. We are discussing this issue to perform better,” he maintained.

On Thursday, PPP leader Qamar Zaman Kaira defended comments made by Asif Ali Zardari in a fiery speech which was received as highly critical of the armed forces. Kaira presented arguments to defend the party Co-Chairman, pointing out that Zardari had also praised the Pakistan Army as an extremely important institution. He questioned why Zardari’s comments were taken as strictly anti-army.

The former information minister threatened the government that PPP had provided stability to the government despite being in the opposition and “if the government stumbles again, it won’t be able to regain stability.”

Commenting on Zardari’s statement, senior Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) leader Raja Zafarul Haq said, “Asif Ali Zardari’s statement against the sensitive national institutions has shocked the nation at a time when our neighbouring country is expressing pride at its role in disintegration of Pakistan in 1971 war.”

“Zardari should have supported our armed forces, rather than maligning them. Zardari himself should think that such controversial statements might damage the solidarity and unity of Pakistan. Pakistan is passing through a critical juncture and we should all display a spirit of cohesion”, Haq, leader of the House in the Senate, said.

Defence analyst Air Marshal Shahid Latif (Retd) said, “The statement of Asif Ali Zardari is pathetic and uncalled for. Before the launch of operation in Karachi by rangers, situation was critical for ordinary citizens. Target killings were common and there were crimes of frequent kidnappings for ransom.”

He added, “The city had been divided into various zones by criminal gangs and a turf war was going on between them. Rangers in their effective operation started taking action against various criminal elements without taking into consideration the political or other affiliations of the criminals. Now, the calm and peace has returned to the city and Karachites are happy with the role of rangers.”

Political sources said Zardari’s outburst could be a pre-planned attempt to allow Bilawal Bhutto Zardari to come up and then reshuffle the party.

“This could be an attempt to give Bilawal a chance to introduce a new-look PPP led by people who are acceptable to the establishment,” a political commentator said.

Sources hinted that Bilawal Bhutto Zardari will bring many changes in Punjab and Sindh before going for the election to enter the parliament.

“Bilawal wants to bring loyalists on top. Zardari may not stop him now from the much-awaited reorganisation of the party, especially in Punjab,” a close aide said.