It is a miracle that the Pakistan Peoples’ Party has survived despite the seemingly never-ending wrangling, internal strife, leg-pulling, intrigues and manipulations.
Ask any of its leaders, who have had the opportunity to lead the party in the NWFP, and the sum total of their collective experience could easily become a textbook, worthy of being taught at management schools.
It is both an art and skill to manage the PPP. And therefore, it goes to the credit of jialas, whose resilience and loyalty to the party’s long-forgotten ideals, has kept the PPP afloat.
It is remarkable that despite the failings of its leadership the party some how, has managed to bounce back, thanks to its workers, who despite having been left in the lurch, have hooked on to the party and voted for it whole-heartedly.
Perhaps nowhere else, has the PPP seen so much turbulence than it has weathered in the NWFP, not so much on account of external reasons but because of its own internal power struggle.
The recent outburst of some of the PPP leaders in the NWFP against the ANP, some of which may have been justified, should be seen in this context — the power struggle and turf war within.
Poor Syed Zahir Shah, the PPP NWFP president, who seems to have found himself caught in a situation where he had to do a lot of explaining for things not entirely of his own making.
It all started with the PPP objecting to the appointment of administrators to replace the erstwhile nazims in the now-dissolved local bodies. But this wasn’t all. The issue was used as a plank to push it to the point of no-return.
Leaks were made to the media about the PPP-affiliated ministers’ decision to tender en-bloc resignations, if their grievances went unheeded and March 31 was set as deadline for the purpose.
Insiders now acknowledge that it was mere a smoke-screen. The real characters involved in creating the hype, they say, actually wanted to kill not two birds with one stone but three birds, altogether, if they could manage it.
The first casualty, of course, would have been Mr Zahir Shah, who was and continues to be portrayed as ineffective and inaccessible.
The second casualty, or the target of this whole exercise, would have been the party’s former provincial president and senior minister Rahimdad Khan, who was portrayed as having been “sold out” to the ANP in failing to protect the party’s interests in the coalition government.
Had the game gone through and succeeded in convincing the party co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari, both Zahir Shah, who had succeeded Rahimdad, and the senior minister, would have lost their jobs, allowing those sitting on the fringes to step in.
But the most ironic part of this entire episode is that an unsuspecting, Mr Zahir Shah, claim his supporters, unwittingly led the tirade against the ANP but found himself alone while explaining his position to a tough-talking Mr Zardari.
One conspiracy theory doing the round is that the whole plan was pulled off by a gentleman sitting on the PPP benches, who had made a vain attempt to convince Mr Zardari to let the PPP form its own government in the NWFP with the help of some independent members of course.
The PPP co-chairman didn’t buy it and therefore, the gentleman was left to nurse his own wounds.
But some party leaders now blame senior PPP leader and the party’s parliamentary leader in the NWFP Assembly, Abdul Akbar Khan for whipping up the campaign. It was Mr Abdul Akbar, who had caused a stir in the NWFP Assembly saying he was not part of the government.
Insiders say that a huffed up Zardari summoned both his party’s provincial president and Abdul Akbar Khan to convey his displeasure over the entire episode.
Mr Zahir Shah is lying low and Abdul Akbar has not spoken on the issue since their separate meetings with their party co-chairman.
In fact, some very credible sources now claim that Mr Zardari had let it be known how displeased he was and didn’t mince his words in his meetings with the two party leaders from the NWFP.
Mr Zardari, they say, was unhappy over the defeat of the party’s candidate in the recent by-elections in Mansehra and had confronted Mr Shah over his performance. But the party’s win in the by-polls in Dera Ismail Khan against Maulana Fazlur Rehman’s younger brother, should bring some breathing space to the beleaguered PPP provincial president.
Former and present leaders, who led the PPP in the NWFP at various times, say lack of attention to the simmering power struggle within the party, the various pressure groups and lack of discipline were some of the issue that have dodged the party for way too long.
As one leader acknowledged “it’s no less than a miracle that we have managed to lumber through and survive despite heavy odds but the party has not been undermined so much by the various dictators as it has been weakened by internal wrangling. It is the time somebody takes charge and acts tough.”