LAHORE - The PPP, supposed to be a party of the masses, does not want any Tom, Dick or Harry to be messing around with its foundation day celebrations starting from November 30..

On this special day when every party worker would like to be part of the celebrations, only a selected few would be allowed entry into the heavily guarded building at Behria Town, called the Bilawal House.

As the party’s de facto Chairman Asif Ali Zardari and Patron-in Chief Bilawal Bhutto Zardari along with senior PPP leadership would be gracing the occasion on the day, entry into the venue would be strictly on production of special identity cards to be issued after thorough scrutiny, something against the jiyala culture of the party of Bhuttos.

The Sindhi guards who man the entry point at Bilawal House don’t recognise party men from Punjab by their faces. They would check out the names from the lists provided to them and then verify the persons through ID cards issued by party’s Punjab organization.

Party’s zonal presidents from Lahore have been asked to prepare lists of party workers for the mega event with instructions that the list should not exceed 20 persons from each provincial constituency. There are 27 such constituencies in Lahore and according to the set formula, only 540 party workers can participate in the foundation day convention from a City once considered a PPP stronghold. Some 150 office-bearers from party’s Lahore chapter could be added to this number.

As per party decision, only 6,000 office-bearers from all over the country would be invited to come to Lahore to mark the day. Out of these, some 5,000 office-bearers would be selected from Punjab while 1,000 would be allowed from rest of the provinces. Manzoor Wattoo told a party meeting the other day that the number of workers attending the moot had been fixed keeping in view their convenience as they would come from far flung areas. But some party men believe it is mainly the issue of boarding and lodging which has compelled the Punjab leadership to keep the number within ‘manageable limits’. This seems credible as party’s Punjab office-bearers have been asked to bear all the expenses from their own pockets. But they have, in turn, passed on the financial burden on the local office-bearers saying that money was not available in the party fund. And they are not ready to share the burden.  

Interestingly, on previous such occasions, the issue before the leadership had been how to bring maximum number of people for a show of strength. But things have changed a lot in the PPP in the past few years. Now the issue is how to keep the gathering small by restricting entry of party men.

It has been learnt that there is great resentment among the party cadres over hand-picked system of giving access to people into the Bilawal House. “The PPP is fast turning into an aristocratic family having no room for poor workers,” a party worker gave vent to his anger while talking to this scribe.    

Circles close to the top leadership, however, attribute the planned small gathering to security reasons. “Under the prevailing law and order situation, the party is not ready to take the risk of exposing young Bilawal to a huge crowd which is not manageable,” commented a party source arguing that Bilawal House does not have the capacity to accommodate a large gathering.