Lahore: Asif Ali Zardari has no immediate plans to take over as leader of the Pakistan Peoples’ Party Parliamentarians (PPP-P) following the end of a two-year legal bar which excludes former presidents from heading a political party, according to a senior party leader.

Since the end of the ban there has been widespread speculation that Zardari would take over control of the parliamentary party.  In fact it is thought that members of the central executive committee recently proposed that since he was already de facto leader he should formally take charge.

His spokesmen denied there was any truth in the claims.

“Mr Zardari has no intention as yet to formally take charge of the PPP-P despite the lapse of the two-year legal bar,” Farhatullah Babar told The Nation.

“At the moment it’s premature to give serious thought to such an eventuality”.

The PPP-P, which was created following an amendment to electoral rules barring those facing charges of corruption from leading a political party, has been led by Makhdum Amin Fahim since 2002. Makhdum, who is currently undergoing treatment for cancer in London, is theoretically responsible for all major decisions in the party.  In reality, however, it is widely believed that Zardari has assumed overall control.  Indeed, Makhdum is on record as having complained to Zardari at being sidelined from major decisions.

According to his spokesman, Zardari is currently co-chairman of the PPP which has not contested any election for over 15 years. His son, Bilawal Bhutto is chairman of this party though the ECP documents show him as Patron-in-Chief.  

 “PPP’s central executive committee has endorsed Mr Zardari and Bilawal as co-chairman and chairman respectively”, Babar told this paper.     

However, on paper, Babar said,  Mr Zardari is not heading any political party at the moment.  “Technically, the ECP record is correct in not showing Mr Zardari as head of either the PPP or the PPP-P. The PPP-P is the parliamentary party whose head is called president and currently this office is being held by Mr Makhdum Amin Fahim. Similarly, Mr Bilawal is head of the PPP, so again the ECP is right in not showing Mr Zardari as heading the PPP”.

Commenting on media reports that Zardari had abdicated his responsibilities as co-chairman of the party and would only act as mentor, Babar termed the reports as exaggerated . “Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and Asif Ali Zardari are functioning as chairman and co-chairman respectively and there is no change in the current arrangement”.