ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) is divided on the issue of Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari joining the federal cabinet as the country’s new foreign minister in the coalition government under Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif.
Background interviews with several party leaders confirmed the reports in some media circles that the PPP chairman might become the foreign minister, though in-house consultation on the matter was still ongoing.
There are two camps in the PPP. One believes Mr Bhutto-Zardari should go for the foreign ministry slot, as it would provide him with an experience of handling international affairs and ultimately benefit him if he becomes the country’s prime minister in future.
Members of the other camp, however, think the PPP chairman should not become a part of the federal cabinet under Mr Sharif, as it would undermine his status of being the head of the second-largest party in the ruling coalition. This camp also believes PPP workers may not like to see their chairman working under the prime minister of the PML-N — PPP’s main competitor in politics.
One camp believes the role will benefit him as future PM; others say working under Shehbaz may not sit well with party workers
“I have advised my chairman to become the country’s foreign minister,” said a senior PPP parliamentarian close to Mr Bhutto-Zardari.
He elaborated that 64 per cent of the country’s population comprised people below the age of 30 years, and Mr Bhutto-Zardari was a representative of the youth. Moreover, he said, Bilawal had immense goodwill in the world due to his mother, Benazir Bhutto, which would help him in dealing with international issues with world leaders.
This could help him create a good following among those people who had not seen former prime ministers Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Benazir Bhutto, and it would ultimately benefit the PPP in future, the party leader said.
He said Mr Bhutto-Zardari’s experience as the foreign minister would strengthen his case of becoming a candidate for the premier. However, he said there had been no formal discussion on the matter and a decision would be made in a day or two.
On the other hand, a senior PPP leader from the second camp insisted that Mr Bhutto-Zardari should not get any cabinet portfolio because then he would not be able to pay attention to party affairs and, as a result, the PPP could suffer in the next general elections.
Interestingly, outgoing foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi in his speech on the floor of the National Assembly also advised the young PPP chairman not to become the foreign minister under Mr Sharif.
Mr Qureshi, who also served as the foreign minister during the previous PPP government under former president Asif Ali Zardari, said it did not suit Mr Bhutto-Zardari, the grandson of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and the son of Benazir Bhutto, to accept the foreign ministry under Shehbaz Sharif because the PPP workers would not accept this.
Meanwhile, sources in the new administration told Dawn that so far they had not worked out any formula for distributing portfolios in the federal cabinet and nominations for key constitutional posts of the speaker and the deputy speaker.
A senior PPP leader said they were more interested in getting constitutional offices instead of portfolios in the federal cabinet. He said two constitutional offices had already become vacant after the resignation of the speaker and the deputy speaker. He said the opposition was also planning to remove Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani and then definitely the PPP would like to get the office.
According to him, the office of the president could also become vacant either because of the resignation of President Dr Arif Alvi or through his planned impeachment.
The PPP leader then, in a lighter vein, said they feared that JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman could also demand the office of the president. In that situation, he said, it would become very difficult for the PPP to accept the Maulana as the president, which might not be beneficial for the country as well.
The sources said Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif would give the ministries after consultations with top government leaders, including Asif Zardari, Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, Maulana Fazlur Rehman and the heads of other coalition partners, in a day or two.