ISLAMABAD - Senior Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) leader Sherry Rehman has said insecurity has nearly suffocated the party as topmost leaders, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and Asif Ali Zardari. find it hard to move around and interact with the people.

“Security is the main reason that they do not move around together. They can’t hold meetings with the people in a free atmosphere. Security threats have impeded their movement,” Senator Sherry Rehman who is also PPP’s vice president said.

Talking exclusively to The Nation, Senator Sherry Rehman said Asif Ali Zardari and Bilawal Bhutto Zardari cannot share a stage due to the unremitting threats. “There is no other issue except security. In the absence of security threats, the two would love to be with the people together,” she remarked.

Senator Rehman, a former ambassador to the United States and information minister, said the PPP has never been given a free hand. “We are not free to reorganise the party. For this you have to mingle with the people, visit different areas and take decisions. Still the process is on and we are trying our best to prepare for the upcoming local governments polls and general elections in 2018),” she mentioned.

When asked how the father and the son, Asif Ali Zardari and Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, were sharing the power in the party, she answered, “Both are working side by side. Asif Ali Zardari is guiding young Bilawal Bhutto Zardari. Asif Ali Zardari has a lot of experience. There are consultations with other party members, too.”

The PPP leader said Zardari would be back soon. “Bilawal Bhutto Zardari is here and both are in contact. There is no confusion. Bilawal has been listening to the workers’ complaints. The reorganisation process is not Punjab specific,” she maintained.

To a question whether Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has differences with Faryal Talpur, Senator Rehman replied, “Some people have concocted stories of differences. There is nothing of this sort.”

Another senior PPP leader, Senator Rehman Malik , said Zardari is expected to return soon to oversee the party’s reorganisational process. “This process has slowed down due to the floods. Once this problem is settled, our leaders will see what changes the party needs for the future,” he told The Nation.

Malik said Zardari’s stay abroad has nothing to do with the alleged differences between him and Bilawal Bhutto Zardari. “There are no differences at all. Asif Ali Zardari is abroad for personal reasons. He will be back soon,” the former interior minister claimed.

He added, “Bilawal is here and has been leading the party. For the PPP, both the father and the son are important. Asif Ali Zardari is an experienced politician and obviously has a leading role.”

To a question, Malik said the PPP still believes in reconciliation and Zardari is open to meet heads of the rival parties, including Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

“Our leadership is committed to reconciliation and meeting other parties’ leaders is part of this process. Asif Ali Zardari can meet PM Nawaz Sharif or any other leader when he returns,” he affirmed.

About Faryal Talpur’s role in the party, Senator Malik said, “We all respect her. She was abroad on a private visit and to perform Umra. I am not sure if she has returned.”

Zardari, who turned 60 on July 26, has been in Dubai for one month. He has held two meetings there with the party leaders and Sindh government members, including Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah.

The recent meeting with the Sindh government members was jointly presided over by Zardari and Bilawal. The party reshuffled the Sindh cabinet and later Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, the PPP chairman, returned home. Zardari, the PPP co-Chairman, stayed back with his sister Faryal Talpur.

PPP Spokesman Senator Farhatullah Baber told The Nation that Zardari was abroad on a private visit and would decide when to return. “He will definitely return, but we don’t have his schedule,” Senator Baber said.

He said there were no birthday celebrations for Zardari in or outside the country as the PPP co-chairman had strictly asked his supporters to stay away from such functions as the people are facing devastations due to floods.

“The birthday celebrations were called off on his directions. We cannot rejoice when the floods are playing havoc with the people. The PPP leadership wants to be with the flood-affected people, but the security threats are hampering such visits,” he insisted.

Senator Baber added, “The threat in such areas is even more serious where the communication system has been destroyed by the floods.”