The old guard of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) seems to be disintegrating. On Thursday, a senior leader from the Punjab and member of party’s Central Executive Committee Nawabzada Ghazanfar Gul ended his over 30-year affiliation with the party, saying there was no space left for him in the PPP. While this move had been years in the making, such a public announcement from a well-known and well-liked veteran politician will hurt the PPP in Punjab and especially Gujarat – where he hails from. However, more concerning for the party will be the trend that has seen another veteran leader, Noor Alam Khan from the province of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, bidding farewell to the party two weeks ago.

It is election season however; departures and defections are to be expected, but outside of Sindh the defections seem to be away from the PPP, which indicate that the reorganisation of Punjab and KP chapters does not seem to be going well. Nawaabzada Ghazanfar Gull and his family has been a strong counterweight to Pakistan Muslim League – Quaid (PML-Q) faction which is headquartered in Gujrat, now that weight is missing, making electoral contests in the region all the more difficult.

There has been an exodus of politicians from the party in recent years, and most have a few common characteristics. Firstly, the individuals served the party during or around the governments of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Benazir Bhutto, and secondly they all disagree with the way PPP co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari is running the party. Both Noor Alam and Ghazanfar Gul maintain their respect for the PPP and even profess the same principles and polices as before in their statements, but pointedly identify a very autocratic style of governance by the current PPP co-chairman as the reason for their departure.

More so than attacks by political opponents and clashes with the government, it is departures like this that should worry the PPP – if the party is to compete in Punjab and KP, it needs to keep its oldest leaders.