Indications of infighting within Pakistan’s ruling party, the Pakistan Peoples’ Party (PPP), has emerged with many older members questioning the motives of co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari.
Senior party members have said Zardari is trying to take over the party, while others lament that the PPP is no more the party of Zulfikar Ali and Benazir Bhutto.
What were till now private rumblings, have become public statements.
Last month, one of Benazir’s most loyal aides, Naheed Khan, said in an interview that she knew of no such will under which Zardari was nominated to succeed Benazir in the eventuality of her death. Naheed, who was both political secretary and confidante of Benazir, was removed from her position soon after Zardari took over as chairman of the party.
There have been whispers in the party over the will that brought Zardari to power.
At the time of his nomination as chairman and his son Bilawal being named heir-apparent, there was a hue and cry within the media to make the will public. In response, Zardari had said it was a private document and had been shown to members of the central executive committee, the highest decision-making body within the PPP.
Another controversy stirred up this week when former PPP chief Makhdoom Amin Fahim said the party was being “taken over” by new people. Without directly attacking Zardari, Fahim said the PPP was the party of the people and not of a few individuals.
Fahim said on Thursday the party was losing touch with the people. He said he feared for the future of the PPP. “I am afraid to wash the party’s dirty linen in public. But the party is slowly breaking up,” he said.
After serving as de-facto head of the PPP for several years while Benazir was in exile, Fahim was elbowed out from what many say was his rightful position as candidate for Prime Minister. To add insult to injury, it was coalition partners PML-N who said they did not have faith in Fahim for his links with President Pervez Musharraf. Fahim said he felt hurt at the insinuation.
In the new Zardari administration, what is becoming increasingly clear is that people close to chairman are being given positions of authority. New members, who were seen close to Zardari, have been appointed to the central executive committee. Also, some top positions like the one held by Rehman Malik, the de-facto interior minister, is considered to have been given for his closeness to Zardari.
Old stalwarts like Naheed and Fahim represent the alternate leadership now, analysts say. Whether this transforms into a challenge remains to be seen, say many.