LAHORE - The third generation of Bhuttos led by Bilawal Bhutto Zardari is finding it hard to meet the challenge of PPP’s revival in Punjab where the bond of allegiance with Garhi Khuda Bakhsh is weakening with time.

Bilawal, a new face of the PPP, wants to take the party forward as Pakistan’s principal progressive political force in one of the most challenging times in the country’s history. But he is facing the most challenging task of reuniting the old party and revisiting the old programme.

PPP dissolved its provincial organisations in the four provinces in April this year as part of its plan to revamp the party. Reorganisation committees in Punjab are pursuing a hectic schedule of meeting party men from different districts to elicit their opinion on the new party structure.

Comprising senior party leaders, these committees have been tasked to interact with party men at the gross- roots level and come up with recommendations about the contours of new party set up at the tehsil, district and provincial levels.

Under the criterion set by the top leadership, the new aspirants should have a better understanding of main challenges facing the party and knowledge of its founding principles.

As the PPP is undergoing its reorganisational phase, what is more distressing for the sincere party men is the fact it is no longer a cohesive political force at the grass-roots level. In Punjab, it stands divided into small groups who are loyal only to the local leaders and not to the party. There is a total disconnect between the top leadership and the party cadres at the lowest level.

The issue of intra-party dissensions is another challenge before the leadership. A particular group from Punjab was recently branded as ‘gang of four’ by the opponents, while for some they are the ‘saner voices’ within the PPP. Bilawal himself witnessed the emerging discord among the party men during his last visit to Lahore. Two party men indulged in verbal brawl in his presence levelling allegations against each other.

The diehard party activists in Punjab, once the backbone of the PPP, are no longer available to the present leadership. They may have a soft corner for young Bilawal, but their allegiance to his father, Asif Ali Zardari, is doubtful owing to latter’s tainted image.

Senior PPP leaders however think that a real transition from Asif Ali Zardari to his son Bilawal could help revive the party in Punjab. They say Bilawal had more charisma and will become more popular than Imran Khan.

Many in the party think that it was vital for party’s revival that youngsters should be its face to confront the new challenges. Others plead the new team of Bilawal Bhutto should be a mixed bag comprising people with mixed abilities. It should be a mix of new talent and experience.

Bilawal should be leading a team of his own comprising people of diverse experience which will have room for both old and young.

Bilawal, on the other hand, thinks that there was no substitute for experience which he termed a much needed thing for party’s revival.

During his last visit to Lahore, Bilawal had promised to have personal interaction with party workers but they are still awaiting their leader to come and meet them. He had then declared that it was part of his strategy to personally meet the party leaders and workers as his mother was known for.

Though it is also in his plans to meet the estranged party men to bring them back into the party fold, but it is yet to happen.

On the occasion of Benazir Bhutto’s 8th death anniversary, party’s Punjab chapter’s allegiance to Bhutto’s became questionable when hardly a few party workers from Punjab turned up at Garhi Khuda Bakhsh, a dangerous sign from the biggest province whose cadres are gradually drifting away from the party nucleus.

There was time, not in the distant past, when PPP caravans would set off for Larkana from every nook and corner of Punjab to pay homage to the Bhuttos.

The top party leadership which mainly comes from Sind seems to have failed to keep up Benazir Bhutto’s image of a binding force (charon sooboun ki zanjeer) of the four provinces. A sense of being a federal party is now a thing of the past. What should be a cause of concern for the leadership, the party of Bhuttos is swiftly turning into a regional party.

Traditional political dynasties in Punjab are opting for the PML-N and the PTI.

After passing through its reorganizational phase, the PPP should be readying itself for the next general elections in 2018. But it has no model of good governance to offer to the voters. Sindh government is known for inefficiency and corruption. May be the new chief minister is able to project a good image of his government.

Bilawal would surely like to continue to take up extremism and terrorism as the fundamental strategy point in the next elections, but this alone cannot guarantee his party’s success.

He also believes that old slogan of ‘roti, kapra aur makan’ for all given by his grandfather and party’s founding chairman Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was still relevant. However, it remains to be seen if the old promise of an egalitarian society will still work in the present situation.

It has been learnt that there is no serious effort currently underway to make a new party manifesto as part of the plan to revive the party. According to PPP’s Information Secretary Qamar Zaman Kaira, PPP was currently busy making a policy framework for future requirements. He calls this exercise an overall revamping of the party policies in the face of new realities. He insists that party will stick to its original foundations while giving a new programme to the people ahead of the general elections.

PPP has also decided to invent a new slogan in a bid to revive the party in the wake of new challenges and political realities. Previous election slogans will also remain intact and a new one may be added to these for 2018 general elections.

Senior party men believe that in order to revive the party in Punjab the leadership will have to reach out to the middle class especially in the urban areas besides the laborers, intellectuals and other sections of society.