LAHORE - As the PPP is embarking on reorganisation of party cadres in Punjab and elsewhere , the fate of estranged PPP leaders remains undetermined as yet since the party’s top leadership is indecisive about whether or not should they be taken back into the party fold. 

Around a dozen party leaders from Punjab were either sidelined or they themselves kept a distance from the leadership after the assassination of Benazir Bhutto in 2007. The same had happened way back in the late eighties when BB said good bye to her ‘uncles’ who were very close to her father and party founder ZA Bhutto.

It has been learnt that party’s de facto chairman Asif Ali Zardari is not inclined to woo back the disgruntled party leaders despite his recent statements to win over their loyalties.

“The statements to bring them back are a mere lip service to create a good will among their sympathizers in the party who want them back into the party,” said a PPP source who did not want to be named. 

The prominent among those PPP leaders who don’t feel comfortable with the present leadership either because of being ignored or for their own reasons, include: Qasim Zia, Begum Abida Hussain, Khalid Kharral, Dr Safdar Abbasi, Naheed Khan, Rana Shaukat Mehmood, Rana Aftab, Afzal Sindhu, Malik Hakmeen, Ghulam Abbass and Mushtaq Awan.

A few among these like Khalid Kharral and Afzal Sindhu have already left the party. Both joined the PTI before 2013 elections but they are now facing the same situation in the new party also. Abida says she is not interested in the electoral politics any more, though her daughter Soghra Imam is a Senator on PPP ticket. Qasim Zia, once a close aide of Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto, thought of forming a sort of pressure group of like-minded PPP leaders a year back, but deferred the idea soon after and preferred to remain in political isolation for the time being.

Rana Aftab is angry with leadership for giving too much importance to his rival in the party, Mr Raja Riaz. Rana believes it was Raja who played role in his defeat in 2008 elections from Faisalabad and virtually became senior minister in Punjab cabinet in the coalition government.  

Naheed Khan and Safdar Abbasi have formed their own faction of the party with nomenclature of Pakistan Peoples Party-Workers Earlier they had founded Bhutto Shaheed Benazir Workers Movement two years back.   

Some 17 PPP MNAs had left the party after 2002 elections when they decided to side with Musharraf. They formed their own group with the name of PPP (Patriots). Rao Skindar Iqbal (late), Faisal Saleh Hayat and Aftab Sherpao were prominent members of this alliance.

Some of the disgruntled party men may even not like to be part of Zardari’s team because they don’t feel comfortable with him and his policies. They hold him responsible for the current deterioration in the party of Bhuttos now confined only to the province of Sindh.

Three different views in the party are being expressed about the fate of these leaders. A section of opinion is against their induction in the party on the plea that they don’t quite fit-in with the existing political environment. Senator Aitzaz Ahsan is proponent of this opinion who thinks that party should not take these ‘uncles’ back and even get rid of some existing ones with a tainted image. He is of the view that Bilawal should lead a new team consisting of young, educated and vibrant politicians having no baggage of the past.  

Another shade of opinion is appreciative of the seasoned party men. The leaders who support this viewpoint think that party should benefit from the experience of the old lot of politicians and woo them back.  

The most dominant view in the party, however, is in favour of a blend of the old and new in the new organizational setup to be headed by Bilawal Bhutto. 

A PPP source confided to The Nation that Asif Ali Zardari himself does not feel the need to bring back the so-called angry party leaders. To him, they are ‘spent cartridges’ having no relevance in the present day power politics.  He is even opposed to old PPP guards and is in favour of creating a new cadre of party activists. He thinks ground realities have changed and the party should get adjust to these.