For a lot of us, Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) is like a first love. It occupies a special place in our hearts because before we came across it,our hearts were blank slates.It has touched, inscribed and enriched them in such a way that no amount of scrubbing can undo the sketched images and pledges. Thus a part of us has stayed in the past, and we always wish the PPP well. First love can be dangerous though if it is also the last. Therefore, like every other quest, before it feels like a burden, you move on. Some left in the 1970s, others in the 1980s, but most abandoned the PPP in the 1990s. The latter happened when Benazir Bhutto (BB)introduced a corporate culture to the party. She did this because Nawaz Sharif and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N)could not be fought without immense wealth. Due to multiple factors,however, she could not keep the necessary balance between ideology and capital procurement, which resulted in a loss of veracity, traditions and eventually the very soul of the party. I know for certain that BB had plans to go back to the PPP’s roots in 2007. She also knew that it was perhaps her last chance to do so. She, therefore, did not care how high the stakes were in that process. She had to pay the price of bringing PPP into government with her blood. Unfortunately, most in the party had not made that intellectual journey required for the party revival with her. She had a plan — one similar to what Imran Khan has at the moment — to revitalise the party after coming into the government. Those plans never materialised once she made her early exit from the world. A new operational model seems to have evolved in the PPP by default. The party has gone back to its core values. It is using a sword as its symbol and Roti, Kapra Aur Makan is its slogan once again PPP was not ready for governance in 2008. For Asif Zardari, it was a journey into the unknown where he made compromises and mistakes to acquire and retain power. PPP was never beaten in parliamentary business or on policy matters but the issues of corruption and poor governance made the daily headlines in a hostile media. In defensive mode, Zardari preferred loyalty over ability and made mistakes by appointing unsuitable individuals to key government positions. One of those was to appoint Yousaf Raza Gilani as Prime Minster (PM) instead of BB’s choice, Shah Mahmood Qureshi. With the Chief Justice (CJ) breathing down its neck, how the PPP stayed in government for five years was nothing short of a miracle. The party was reduced to Sindh when the disillusioned electorate voted into power the incumbent PML-N government in 2013. Zardari took a while to realise that he was making the same mistakes in Sindh until Chaudhry Nisar — supported by the federal law enforcing agencies — caught up with him. With their backs to the wall, a PPP fightback led by Bilawal and supported on the flanks by Murad Ali Shah as new Chief Minster started in earnest. Zardari decided to stay in the background, where he is most effective, and smoothed over the tensions with the establishment. A new operational model seems to have evolved in the PPP by default. The party has gone back to its core values. It is using a sword as its symbol and “Roti, Kapra Aur Makan” is its slogan once again. Bilawal is it’s face and Zardari the tactician. This position sans personnel, at least intellectually, is similar to what BB had grasped after her two abortive stints in the government. The approach has since made significant gains as the PPP formed a de facto government in Balochistan and took control of the Senate. With an unenthusiastic public image, lack of social and electronic media backing, and an unpredictable establishment, is it too late for the PPP to form the next federal government? On paper, PPP has a perception vacuum which cannot be filled through empty slogans. However, in rural Sindh, there is no real contender and in urban areas, gains can be made following the demise of the MQM. Zardari believes that they could snatch 5-6 seats in KPK and 15-20 seats in Punjab and make those numbers count. The latter seems difficult but is not impossible as PML-N and PTI are in disarray and PPP stalwarts could hold their seats. Zardari is standing firmly behind at least 10 independent candidates. He has also reached an understanding with some other independents candidates who would join him after the elections. The rest of them would fall in line when the establishment activates its “Plan B”. Asif Zardari’s composure and conviction is mystifying for a lot of political pundits. My assessment is that this election is still wide open and any of the three political parties (PTI, PMLN, PPP) could form the next coalition government. In the worst-case scenario, the PPP loses seats in rural Sindh but would level it out through acquisitions in urban Sindh. They make national gains in the rest of the three provinces and could form provincial governments in Sindh and Balochistan. If the PPP wins 65-75 National Assembly seats, nobody could stop Zardari from being sworn in as the next PM of Pakistan. Alternatively, the real politics by the real PPP would start in the next parliament, spearheaded by Bilawal Bhutto Zardari. The writer is a Consultant Psychiatrist and Visiting Professor. He tweets @AamerSarfraz Published in Daily Times, July 3rd 2018.