Once the party of the people is now a party of gimmicks – the most recent one being the hoopla over the return of PPP Co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari from his self-imposed exile to Dubai. PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari has this to say about it: “This is not the outcome of any backdoor diplomacy...he is returning home for the sake of democracy,” which only makes one wonder whether he left because he was tired of democracy and needed a break. The young PPP leader went on to say, “If Asif Zardari would be with us, we would be able to get our demands accepted by the federal government soon.” So, the political goals of the PPP were stalled because Asif Zardari was away and Mr Zardari is to blame?

Anyway, the fact is that making sense in politics is not a priority, being seen is. The party is trying to stay in the limelight; from Bilawal’s four demands, that no one is taking seriously, to his tweets that ridicule the PM in bad taste. Yet, nothing is creating optimism that this party is worthy of supporting. While the PML-N and PTI have carved for themselves clear identities (development/mega-projects and accountability/justice, respectively), what the PPP stands for is unclear. It used to stand for progressive reform and public welfare, both of which are evading Sindh, the only province where they hold any sway.

In recent months, Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari has increased his presence in public. Of the four demands to the government, the first two, that a parliamentary committee on national security be formed and that the opposition’s Panama Bill be passed are not practical or possible. A committee for national security in the National Assembly where PML-N holds a majority would do nothing extraordinary and the opposition bill can only pass if the PML-N complies, which it never will and does not need to. The third demand, that a multiparty resolution passed during the PPP government on CPEC be implemented is a bit too late. Only the last, that a foreign minister be appointed, is immediately relevant, though it does nothing to enhance PPP’s current image problem, nor does it clarify what the party actually stands for today.

The PPP has to dig itself out of this muddle and Asif Zardari’s comings and goings only make the party unstable. It would be too optimistic to expect Asif Zardari’s presence to improve government performance in Sindh, or check the decline in party popularity. The answer is Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari himself. Even though dynastic politics is becoming increasingly unpopular, his name opens many doors for him that his father had to kick down. It is time the party stop waiting for the return of the king, and autonomously revise and reform itself with the prince at the helm.