ISLAMABAD - The Pakistan People’s Party is aiming to shun the Sindh tag and do better in other provinces in the upcoming general election amid rivals claim that it had effectively become a rural Sindh-based party.

Close aides to the PPP leadership told The Nation that Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and Asif Ali Zardari – the party’s chairman and co-chairman – were putting all their efforts to at least fetch some seats from the other three provinces in the general elections, expected in July.

Senior PPP leaders said Bilawal and Zardari hoped to perform better in the provinces, other than Sindh, to neutralise the ‘anti-PPP propaganda’.

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s recent taunts, terming the PPP a ‘regional party’ have infuriated the PPP leadership who are hoping to prove the detractors wrong. Zardari had not ruled out an alliance with the PTI after the elections to form a coalition government but the PTI immediately rejected the option with a ‘thank you’ note.

On Monday, Bilawal said an alliance with the PTI was not possible ahead of the upcoming general election.

In the 2013 polls, the PPP lost heavily and the low-popularity readings continued until 2017. The party, however, is once again looking to make a comeback in Punjab with a few encouraging rallies in the populous province – that decides who will rule the country in every general election.  The PPP is optimistic that influential politicians – annoyed with the PML-N and the PTI – could join the party and strengthen its chances of performing better after a political hiatus.

PPP South Punjab Secretary General Natasha Daultana said her party had been playing an active role for decades at the national level and faced several dictators during this process.

“Calling the PPP a regional party will be a silly statement. We have formed the government in the centre several times and dictators failed to confine us. Our numbers in the general election would prove we are a national party which has a representation in all the provinces. We are not Sindh-based,” she said while speaking to The Nation.

Daultana said the PTI had supported the PPP candidates during the Senate chairman and deputy chairman elections so nothing could be ruled out in politics. “In the Senate elections, we won more seats than expected and had our candidates elected as the chairman, the deputy chairman and the opposition leader. We will again win more seats in Punjab than most of the people think we can win,” she said.

Daultana was optimistic that the PPP will be a key player in the general election. “Once the elections are over, we will see how we can form a coalition government with any party. Nothing is final in politics. We have to move with the allies and rivals,” she said.

Zardari believes even 30 National Assembly seats from the 140-plus on offer in Punjab could give the party a realistic chance to lead a coalition government in the centre.

Bilawal, however, has higher expectations and insists on even forming the provincial government. Bilawal’s optimism stems from successful rallies in various cities which he claims have mobilized the party workers.

PPP Punjab Information Secretary Senator Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar said those calling the PPP a regional party had failed to win a seat in the Senate elections from Punjab, Balochistan and Sindh. “The PTI only won seats from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (in the Senate polls). We won seats from Sindh, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan and fought well in Punjab too. It’s now crystal clear which is the regional party and which is the national party,” he quipped.

Khokhar said the PTI had only recently voted for the ‘regional party’ in the Senate chairman and deputy chairman elections. “It is just a soft reminder for them. They voted for us (the PPP) and are now criticizing us. Nobody will be able to ignore the PPP after the elections,” he said.

The lawmaker said the PPP was focusing on rural Punjab for the general election as “we served the farmers during our tenure (2008-2013).” This, he said, did not mean “the PPP will not contest in the urban areas. We are hoping to win seats from urban areas in Punjab too but the major chunk (of victories) is expected from South Punjab. We will do much better in this province (Punjab) and nobody will be able to form the government without us. We have a good following in Sindh but we also have vote bank in all the provinces.”