PPP rules out father-son rifts as Bilawal leaves for Dubai

PPP spokesperson insists Bilawal’s visit to Dubai is routine, calls rumours “baseless”

PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari (left) and Co-chairman PPP Asif Ali Zardari. — AFP/File
PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari (left) and Co-chairman PPP Asif Ali Zardari. — AFP/File
  • PPP says Bilawal’s visit to Dubai, UAE is routine.
  • Party terms rumours of differences “baseless”.
  • It comes after Zardari called son “inexperienced”.

The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Friday quashed the rumours of differences between the party’s top brass and father-son duo — Asif Ali Zardari and Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari — after the former foreign minister left for Dubai.

The development came after Zardari’s hard-hitting with Geo News’ Hamid Mir, wherein he called Bilawal “inexperienced”, “not fully trained” in politics, and would “take time” getting up to speed — fuelling rumours of rifts between them — as Bilawal had been asking old politicians to rest and allow the new generation to take the lead.

In a statement on X, formerly Twitter, PPP Central Secretary Information Faisal Karim Kundi said the party chairman’s visit to Dubai, an emirate in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), was pre-planned.

“Chairman PPP @BBhuttoZardari has left for Dubai yesterday afternoon according to his schedule after KP visit,” Kundi noted, after media outlets reported that he had left the country “all of a sudden”.

“Rumours regarding differences between Chairman PPP & President @AAliZardari is baseless,” he added.

X/@fkkundi
X/@fkkundi

While talking to journalists moments after his statement, Murad Ali Shah — former Sindh chief minister and a top PPP leader — also said that the visit was routine.

Talking to Geo News, PPP Information Secretary Shazia Atta Marri said that Bilawal has left for Dubai on a “private visit” and noted that he routinely visits the Gulf nation. “There’s no specific reason for this visit.”

She also added that Bilawal was scheduled to leave for Dubai after completing his Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) election tour.

“Bilawal will return to Pakistan on November 30 and address the party’s Foundation Day event,” she clarified.

PPP Senator Sherry Rehman wondered why news channels were panicking, calling his visit “exactly as scheduled”.

There seems to be a difference in the narratives between the two top leaders in the run-up to the polls as Bilawal believes there could be interference in the general elections, while Zardari said he sees transparent polls.

Bilawal has been campaigning across the country and touting his party as the solution to Pakistan’s ills, while also asking “old politicians” to sit back and allow the new generation to lead from the front in the elections slated to take place on February 8 next year.

In his speech in the National Assembly in August, Bilawal had also asked his father and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) supremo Nawaz Sharif to ensure that politics for the next generation was easier, stressing that they shouldn’t suffer the same fate as their elders.

‘Inappropriate’

Analyst Mazhar Abbas, while speaking on Geo News’ programme “Geo Pakistan”, called Zardari’s comments “inappropriate” and said they damaged Bilawal’s political image.

“But this isn’t the first time that Zardari has done this,” Abbas noted.

When Bilawal was formally launched in Karachi, and he made some hard-hitting statements against Nawaz and Altaf, Zardari did not take him to a workers’ convention in Lahore the very next month.

“Over there, Zardari was asked about Bilawal. In response, he said Bilawal was inexperienced and a child. It was surprising as this happened when he was being launched.”

Abbas raised concerns that no one might take Bilawal — the country’s youngest foreign minister — “seriously” as his father had raised questions on his credibility.

“Who will take him seriously in his next rallies?” Abbas asked. The analyst said Bilawal also wants a level-playing field within his own party.

He recalled that Aitzaz Ahsan, a former PPP leader, had in 2015 said that people of old age should sit on the sidelines and allow Bilawal to lead, noting that even if he does make mistakes, he will learn over time.

“All of the Bhuttos […] you should take a look at their ages when they were martyred. Maybe Bilawal is talking in historical context,” he added.

What did Zardari say exactly?

Zardari told Mir that Bilawal was “inexperienced” and that it would take some time for him to gain that experience. “Bilawal is much more talented than I am, but he isn’t experienced.”

Bilawal is calling everyone “babay” (old politicians), not just me, he noted. The PPP stalwart said the new generation in every house says, “Dad, you don’t know anything”.

The former president said the new generation has its own mindset and the right to express itself, noting that if he tries to intervene in their affairs, it would just lead to more mess.

“If Bilawal says, ‘You do politics, I won’t’, then what will I do? People learn over time in politics. I have made several mistakes myself.”

Zardari also mentioned that if they were in business, then Bilawal’s narrative would have been the same, “You [Zardari] don’t know anything. It’s the same in politics,” he mentioned.

Bilawal, during his rallies, has also mentioned that old politicians took revenge on their rivals when they came into power, specifically targeting the PML-N.

Zardari said during his tenures, there was no political prisoner as he had never resorted to revenge politics. “Every now and then, new allegations were levelled against me, but I never responded to them.”

“We saved the ‘sword’ from rotten eggs, but they tried to steal the ‘sword’,” he said, talking about the party’s sword logo.

Speaking about the different mindsets of the top PPP leaders, Zardari stated that there are two parties — PPP and Pakistan Peoples Party Parliamentarians (PPPP).

Zardari said he is the president of the PPPP, which is authorised to allocate election tickets, while his son Bilawal is chairman of the PPP. “I allocate tickets,” he said, noting that he also has the authority to issue tickets for Bilawal in the next polls.

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