PTI’s ‘bad patch’ irks teammates: PPP senses chance to fight back

LAHORE: As PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zaradri is expected to camp in Lahore later this month, the workers believe that he has a fair chance of reviving the party in Punjab in the face of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s back-to-back ‘political failures’.

Some PPP leaders Dawn spoke to on Sunday were of the view that PTI chairman Imran Khan’s failure to first gather his supporters in large number in Islamabad to lock down the city over Panamgate issue and then calling it off for face-saving had immensely disappointed his party workers as well as his leaders.

They say seeing the people disappointed with Khan and his style of politics, the PPP has got another revival chance in Punjab and it will fully exploit it. They say a good number of PTI leaders including those who had switched loyalties from the PPP after its rise on the national scene in Oct 30, 2011, are seriously considering to say goodbye to Khan and join the Bhutto’s party.

“Mr Bilawal will camp in Lahore later this month and do aggressive politics. He will also preside over the main event in connection with the foundation day on Nov 30 at Bilawal House here,” PPP senior leader and coordinator of Asif Ali Zardari in Punjab Navid Chaudhry said.

“We are seeing a visible chance to fill the vacuum in Punjab Imran Khan left after his flopped show in Islamabad. Mr Khan who used to cite social media for different things should now visit it to know that his supporters are utterly disappointed with him for calling off the Islamabad protest after his failure to gather a large number of people there to lock down the capital,” he said.

Navid Chaudhry further said: “Today everyone in the party circle is talking about this vacuum created after the PTI’s Islamabad failure. Some of the old guard of the PPP, who joined the PTI after its rise, are regretting their decision. They are of the view that brave leaders like Nusrat Bhutto and Benazir Bhutto could lead the workers while Imran Khan chose to stay back home while his party workers were being baton-charged on roads,” he said and predicted that these old PPP guard would soon return to their original party.

He said Mr Bilawal had started taking on both PML-N and PTI on the demand of the party workers. “Today he is giving a befitting reply to Nawaz and Imran in the same fashion thus charging up the party workers which is the need of the hour to mobilise them ahead of the general election,” he said.

PPP Parliamentary Leader in Punjab Assembly Qazi Ahmad Saeed said Bilawal had decided to visit Punjab by road. “In the current situation, the PPP has a great chance to revive itself in Punjab as the PTI is fast losing its popularity. We had conceded our space to the PTI and now time has come to get it back,” he said.

Mr Saeed said Bilawal had given the task of bringing the ‘angry PPP leaders’ oft the south Punjab back from the PTI to Yousuf Raza Gilani and Makhdoom Ahmed Mahmood.

Another PPP leader, Abdul Qadir Shaheen, said Bilawal’s big rally in Rahim Yar Khan last week had already showed clear signs of the return of the PPP in Punjab.

Meanwhile, Bilawal will announce the new (central) Punjab president and general secretary during his Lahore visit. Bilawal has named Makhdoom Ahmad Mahmood and Natasha Daultana south Punjab president and general secretary, respectively.

“Mr Bilawal will announce central Punjab president and general secretary during his Lahore visit this month,” Mr Shaheen said.

According to the party sources, Qamar Zaman Kaira appears to be strong candidate for the slot of Punjab president. Former premier Raja Pervaiz Ashraf and Rana Farooq Saeed are also among the shortlisted candidates. For general secretary Punjab slot Bushra Aitzaz is among the potential candidates.

Published in Dawn, November 7th, 2016

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