With Bilawal Bhutto, the chairperson of the Pakistan Peoples Party sulking in London over differences with his father on how to run the party, it is believed that his place in Pakistan will now be taken by sister Bakhtawar Bhutto, whose political career is to be launched later this week.
Bakhtawar Bhutto will be one of the main speakers at the 36th death anniversary of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, her maternal grandfather and the founder of the party. "She is being trained by senior party leaders on her new role," confirmed Sharjeel Memon, the party spokesman while talking to journalists.
Memon did not comment on the spat between Bilawal and Asif Ali Zardari but there are rumours that the younger Bhutto, who was seen as the political heir to Benazir Bhutto, left Pakistan in 2014 after he was not allowed to make changes in the party high command.
"He is the chairperson of the party but he could not remove the Sindh chief minister because his father wouldn't let him," said Naheed Khan, a former Benazir aide.
Bilawal is said to have tried to make changes in the party including removal of some key office bearers who were seen to be close to his father, Asif Zardari because of the allegations of wide scale corruption. After a series of arguments between Bilawal and Zardari, the chairperson left for the UK. He was expected to come back for his mother's death anniversary in December 2014 but did not show up. In 2013, it was at the death anniversary of his mother that Bilawal's own political career had been launched by Zardari. "It lasted less then a year which is very unfortunate," one party official said.
There is, however, growing resentment within the party over how pro-Zardari elements, including Zardari's own sisters and other family members, have been put into key positions in the party and the Sindh government, the province in which the party rules.
Naheed Khan, who was ousted from the party for opposing the changes, says that the party worker is disillusioned. "What we are seeing is that the party has been reduced to a one-province party and that too is under threat owing to the poor performance of the PPP," she said .
In the meantime, Bakhtawar is being readied for a bigger party role. She addressed a ceremony in Bilawal House this week and was seen distributing compensation cheques among victim families of two separate bomb blasts. She spoke on the occasion and almost all the important members of the party were in attendance which is a clear indication of how the party perceives her future role, say observers.
But the real challenge to the party comes from outside. Zulfikar Halipota, a member of Imran Khan's PTI party, insists that the province, which has voted for the Bhutto name for almost three decades now, is about to see a change. "The PTI has made inroads in many cities and towns across Sindh," he says, adding in the next general elections, Imran Khan will be standing from constituencies where a Bhutto is the candidate.
According to PPP general secretary Taj Haider, the party is very much in control of things. "For decades the people have voted for us and will continue to do so," he insists. Others like Halipota, however, see change both within the party and in the province it has commanded for so long.