Zardari eyes PPP’s comeback to Punjab

ISLAMABAD     –   Pakistan People’s Party supremo Asif Ali Zardari is concentrating on Punjab for a variety of targets – the upcoming chief minister’s elections, the by-elections due to de-seating of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf lawmakers and then the next general elections.

The PPP leader, a former President, is spending time in Lahore and meeting politicians and political activists, aiming to achieve his future goal of a comeback in Punjab. This comes as he claimed the PPP will consolidate its position in Punjab and also win the next general elections to form the federal government.

Performing well in Punjab will not be a surprise for the PPP as the province has once been a stronghold of the party. For the past ten years or so, however, the party has done little in terms of winning the national or provincial assemblies’ seats.

Politicians have already started meeting Zardari in Lahore although the present meetings have been for condolences due to the recent death of the PPP leader’s mother.

There are reports that Zardari has bought two bungalows measuring 14 kanal in Gulberg. Further talks are underway to purchase another six kanal bungalow situated in front of PTI leader Shah Mehmood Qureshi’s house near Gaddafi Stadium.  The Bilawal House in Bahria Town is expected to be converted into a farmhouse.

PPP leaders maintain that Zardari’s stay in Gulberg will make access for the party workers easier as compared to the Bilawal House in Bahria Town.

In a recent media interaction, Zardari said that his party would form the next government. “We will take the entire share (in the government) next time. If I get the chance to serve, I will turn the country by 110 degrees.”

The former president said he will engage party leaders in Punjab and work with them for the next polls. He added that claims of PPP’s politics coming to an end in Punjab were “white lies.”

The PPP is currently ruling the Sindh province, where it has been forming the government since the last three general elections, while it is also a major stakeholder in the incumbent federal government.

The PPP has formed government at both the national and provincial levels in 1972, 1988, 1993, and 2008.  In 2022, the PPP remains an important factor in the politics of Pakistan despite its electoral weight being confined to Sindh in the last two general elections (2013 and 2018).

Historically, the PPP has been at the heart of major political movements in Pakistan, such as the Movement for the Restoration of Democracy (MRD) against Zia ul Haq in the 1980s.

The PPP stands at an interesting juncture in 2022. The two previous general elections in Pakistan (2013 and 2018) saw the PPP confined to Sindh due to its dismal electoral performance in other provinces.

In 2022, the PPP seeks to recapture its position as a party of the federation in the rest of the country. In its first three decades of its existence, the party was a viable political contender in Punjab, Pakistan’s largest and most developed province.

With the next general elections scheduled for 2023, the PPP is stepping up its visibility in national-level politics. Zardari is expected to make Lahore his base and try to win enough seats in the general elections to return to power as a leading party.

For the time being, the test is to win the seat of the chief minister for the ally Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) and play a role in the by-elections.

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