The PPP gave a traditionally raucous welcome to federal Kashmir and Northern Affairs Minister Manzoor Ahmed Wattoo on his first visit to Lahore on Monday, after his recent appointment as Central Punjab PPP President. The occasion was not marred by any of the shows of dissent that Mian Manzoor’s original appointment had caused, but that was a small mercy, especially as nothing in the welcome reflected any move towards reconciliation. Mian Manzoor is new to the PPP, having only joined it formally at the last election, but he has been constant in his association with it, ever since 1993, when he became Chief Minister after toppling Ghulam Hyder Wyne. This was just before the elections when he parlayed the 18 seats won by his party, the PML-J, into becoming Chief Minister with a PPP Senior Minister and Governor. This was the first opportunity the PPP had of office in the Punjab since 1977. The PPP ministers did not get along with Mian Manzoor, with the result that he was replaced as Chief Minister by Arif Nakai. That was probably the time when he created opposition to him within the ranks of the PPP. The PPP may have been his party in 1977, but then his provincial ticket was withdrawn, upon which he went into the Tehrik Istiqlal. Thus for 30 years, he was out of the PPP. Those who remained loyal to the party in this time, and those who resent him as a nominee of Co-Chairman Asif Zardari, did not spoil his welcome, but Mian Manzoor would probably need no telling that he would have to win over these elements.

Mian Manzoor’s appointment has not just upset many in the PPP, but also other parties. The PML-N would find any PPP provincial chief unwelcome, let alone one whose past includes a betrayal. However, more serious is the discomfort of the PML-Q, an allied party, whose Punjab chief, Deputy Prime Minister Ch Pervez Elahi, is also a former Punjab Chief Minister, and who aspires to the job. It should not be forgotten that both were candidates in 1990, and their subsequent departures from the PML-N were because of this. It appears that neither has really found the federal government congenial.

Mian Manzoor is taking over at a crucial time. His first priority must be to win the election that is only months away, and so do it that he can return to office means that he must win over his opponents within the party, if not within the alliance. It is an onerous task, but one that Mian Manzoor must well know goes with the territory.