LAHORE - While there is disappointment among PPP cadres over reports that Bilawal Bhutto would not be attending party’s Foundation Day function on November 30th, speculations are rife about his decision to stay away from an important event for which the party has created much hype in the last many days.     

Different reasons are being attributed to his absence from the show as the leadership has failed to come up with any plausible explanation to justify the decision. The official stance of the party is that he is not coming due to personal engagements at London. But no party man is ready to take this as the actual reason.

Another explanation being offered is that Imran’s Islamabad rally would overshadow the PPP show as the two events coincide. But again, there seems little truth in it since Bilawal could address the party convention the following day, on December 1st as many party men regard this as the actual date on which the party was founded 47 years ago at the Lahore residence of Dr Mubashir Hasan.

There is talk of differences between the father and the son over some recent appointments the latter has made apparently without consultation with his father. But there is nothing on record to substantiate this gossip.  

Bilawal’s Political Secretary, Senator Jehangir Badar sees nothing unusual in his leader’s decision not to participate in party’s Foundation Day activities. “It happened many a time in the past that Shaheed Mohtarma would not attend Foundation Day functions”, Badar told this scribe.

Asked that Bilawal’s decision to stay away from the party show at the nick of time was giving rise to speculations, Badar claimed that it was not sudden. “It had been made much earlier but was not made public before”, he contended.   

Badar, who also served as party’s Secretary General, refuted the impression that there was any discord between party Chairman Bilawal Bhutto and Co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari on any issue. “The leadership is united and one. There are no differences whatsoever between the two”, Badar said in categorical terms.

He said Bilawal would make his appearance on December 27 in Rawalpindi when the party marks seventh death anniversary of Shaheed Benazir Bhutto.

It merits mention here that Bilawal Bhutto had appointed Jehangir Badar as Chief Coordinator in connection with the mega event.

He was supposed to coordinate with old PPP guards across the country to ensure their presence on the occasion.

There are reports that while Manzoor Wattoo was asking party office bearers to keep the lists of party workers attending the event very short, Jehangir Badar, on the other hand, was stating no such thing. “Bring as many workers as you can”, a party office bearer quoted Badar as having told him a day before.

Apparently there seems a difference in the approach of the two leaders performing the same task. But it is also true that Mian Manzoor Wattoo is on record stating that Jehangir Badar was performing his duties excellently.

Also, there is much resentment among the party workers over the selection criterion. Many want to be part of the event, but the Punjab leadership has applied restrictions on the numbers. “This is like sowing seeds of discord among party cadres on an occasion when the party needs to give a message of unity among its ranks”, an estranged party worker told The Nation.

Insiders, however, state that Bilawal has been advised by some saner elements within the party to leave the upcoming event for his father to address the party workers. “He should not be chairing workers’ convention in a situation when many workers are angry with the leadership for being denied entry into the Bilawal House”, a party source commented over the development.  

Party’s de facto Chairman Asif Ali Zardari would chair the Foundation Day function, according to an official announcement made by Mian Manzoor Ahmad Wattoo on Thursday.

Meanwhile, the PPP leadership has decided to make it a two-day event starting from November 30th. The first day has been specified for workers and office bearers coming from central and south Punjab. Workers hailing from rest of the provinces would gather at Bilawal House on December 2 to celebrate the day with a gap of one day. On December 2, Asif Ali Zardari would meet with party leaders to discuss party matters.   

It has also been decided that there would no torch bearer procession, fireworks and musical programme on Saturday and Sunday outside Bilawal House as decided earlier. The programme has been altered as a token of respect for Chehlum and month of Safar, according to a party handout.

Manzoor Wattoo chaired a meeting of organizing committee on Friday to review arrangements being made in connection with the Foundation Day.

The meeting was told that City would be decorated with hoardings, banners, and party flags to mark the day.