ISLAMABAD - Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) did pretty badly in the 2013 polls, winning only in Sindh and failing miserably in other provinces, but the next general elections can be even more challenging with Co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari’s ‘best friend’ Zulfikar Mirza and company making all attempts to sink the ship once for all.

After attacking Zardari with a series of allegations, Mirza now threatens to launch jihad (holy war) against his former close friend and “carve out” another faction of the PPP which could dent the party in the Sindh province.

“If Zulfikar Mirza goes on with his plan to launch another faction (of the PPP), he could damage the party’s bid in the next polls as he and his wife (Fehmida Mirza) have  a huge number of followers in the rural Sindh. Remember, several lawmakers were ready to resign when he was removed as Sindh home minister (in 2011),” a political commentator said.

“Mirza (who accuses Zardari of being corrupt and deceitful) won’t be alone as several anti-PPP groups will support him,” he added. The PPP, however, plays down the threats from Mirza. “He is in politics because of the PPP and will know like all those who left the PPP that he stands nowhere without the PPP,” PPP Secretary Information Qamar Zaman Kaira said.

The PPP leader said only media has created a hype otherwise there was nothing in Zulfiqar Mirza’s statements against Zardari.

Kaira said so many people left the PPP in the past and nobody ever heard of them afterwards. “You can’t betray the PPP and hope to peak again,” he remarked.

In the past, dissidents have left the PPP and formed their own groups but none except PPP (Sherpao) of former Khyber Pukhtunkhaw Chief Minister Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao, ever proved to a success. Sherpao, who enjoys a degree of influence in his home province, has now changed the name of his party to Qaumi Wattan Party (QWP).

Mir Murtza Bhutto’s PPP (Shaheed Bhutto), headed by his widow Ghinwa Bhutto, has failed to gain sympathies of the PPP workers and is hardly any threat to the parent party.

Late Farooq Ahmed Khan Leghari, a former President, had also formed his own party, the Millat Party, after sacking the PPP government 1996, but that also did not receive the desired support.

And only weeks earlier, Naheed Khan, a close aide of PPP’s late leader Benazir Bhutto, also announced to form a splinter group of the PPP named as PPP (Workers) after she and her husband Safdar Abbasi were continuously ignored by Zardari.

Sindh Information Minister Sharjeel Memon says Mirza should learn from those PPP leaders who lost their credibility and political stature after leaving the party.

“Zulfikar Mirza can stage a drama but cannot damage the party. PPP workers are united and will not accept false allegations against the leadership,” Memon said.

Earlier, Mirza had said, “I am considering multiple options. I can carve out another group or support other parties that are considered against the Zardari-led PPP. I want to see Bilawal leading the party, and expel those who have encroached upon his position.”

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari albeit, has never uttered a word in support of Mirza but did defend his father Asif Ali Zardari on a couple of occasions.

“Bilawal knows Mirza is getting personal. He knows that a man who benefitted from the party until recently cannot be truthful when he targets the same leadership,” said a PPP spokesman. In February this year, Zulfiqar Mirza surprised everyone when he told a news conference in Badin that serious differences had emerged between Zardari and his son Bilawal.

The former minister continued to express his own differences with his long-time friend in the months that followed, accusing him of violence and corruption, and ultimately even of being involved with supermodel Ayyan Ali and the real culprit in the money laundering case in which she was arrested.

Mirza’s mysterious falling out with his best friend and business partner has made headlines for months, but its origins are shrouded in mystery.

Some said he had been assigned by Zardari to attack him and his politics so that his son Bilawal could launch a new political career without the baggage of corruption and bad governance. Others blamed it on differences over the sugar mills that the two comrades owned together. Yet others said he was a mole of “the establishment” chastising the MQM and also criticizing the PPP for supporting it.

But Mirza, who has been affiliated with the PPP since 1977, says his difference with Zardari were political, not personal.

Independent analysts believe the differences between Mirza and Zardari are personal and not political.

They think Mirza, with the support of other dissident leaders, could damage the party’s chances of success in the next general elections.

“There have been rumours that all PPP factions were in talks to form a new party or alliance with the support of other anti-PPP parties. If that happens, some dissidents may also join them in Punjab and Sindh which might prove dangerous for the PPP”, said a veteran analyst.

“Even if the splinter groups do not get their candidates elected, they can pocket their chunk of pro-PPP votes which sometimes proves critical”, he added.

A close aide said Zardari may ask Bilawal to intervene and stop Mirza from going too far. “Thing can still be settled”, he opined.