RAWALPINDI, Dec 27: With political parties gearing up for the forthcoming elections, the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) held a big public gathering at Liaquat Road on the fifth death anniversary of Benazir Bhutto on Thursday.

The PPP leaders on the occasion asked the party workers and supporters to once again take revenge for the assassination of Ms Bhutto by defeating her political opponents in the elections.

Unlike the four anniversaries since Ms Bhutto was killed at Liaquat Bagh in 2007, this year’s public gathering here was the biggest.

Amid heightened security, a large number of PPP supporters, women activists and local leaders attended the event.

The participants were chanting slogans like ‘Benazir, we are ashamed because your killers are still alive.’

With the general elections round the corner, the speakers took oath from the PPP supporters present on the occasion to vote for all those candidates who were recommended by President Asif Ali Zardari.

“Today, I want to take oath from the PPP workers that they would vote the candidate who is given ticket by President Zardari. I take this oath from you so that you are united and once again take revenge of Benazir’s assassination through the ballot, not the bullet,” said Amir Fida Paracha, the PPP city president. Mr Paracha was the candidate for a National Assembly seat in the 2008 elections.

Zamurd Khan, the managing director of Pakistan Baitul Maal (PBM) also took a similar oath from the workers.

Almost all major roads and commercial markets in Rawalpindi had been painted with the portraits of Ms Bhutto. It was for the first time that such a widespread publicity had been made of the event.

While the PPP leaders talked of unity, some of their own colleagues, who regularly addressed the gathering at Liaquat Bagh each year, were missing on Thursday. Most prominent among them was former law minister Baber Awan. Besides, the presidents of PPP Attock, Chakwal and Jhelum and MPAs Nargis Faiz Malik, Nargis Ishaq and Rana Rizvi also remained absent.

PPP Rawalpindi information secretary Shujaat Haider Naqvi told Dawn that all the leaders had been invited to the gathering. He said the absence of the leaders from the gathering was disappointing.

Speakers on the occasion also renewed their trust in President Zardari and PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari. They vowed to promote the vision of Ms Bhutto.

ISLAMABAD: The Parade Avenue here was opened for the public after over eight months on Thursday. On April 14, the government closed the avenue for all types of public gatherings.

The decision was taken after the relatives of the missing persons planned to stage a sit-in there.

On Thursday, scores of civil society representatives and political workers gathered there to pay tributes to Ms Bhutto. A screen was also installed for the participants to watch the public meeting held at Garhi Khuda Bakhsh.

When Bilawal started his speech, most of the participants said there was a resemblance between the voices of Ms Bhutto and her son. Even his accent is similar to his mother, they said.

Human rights activist Tahira Abdulla said: “There is a lot of resemblance between the voices of the mother and the son.”

Mediaperson Fauzia Shahid said: “I wanted to listen to the speech of Bilawal. He speaks just like his mother and Zulifikar Ali Bhutto.”

The civil society activists later held a candlelight vigil. Rights activist Marvi Sarmad said Ms Bhutto was a symbol of courage, democracy and struggle. She will always remain alive in the hearts of people.

Tahira Abdulla said she was desperate to know about the murderers of Ms Bhutto. “Bibi, we are ashamed that your killers are alive and have not been unmasked,” she said.

Literary personalities, mediapersons and political workers, including Romana Bashir, Arif Gill and Tariq Chaudhry also participated in the vigil.

MUZAFFARABAD: PPP activists organised functions across Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) to commemorate the fifth death anniversary of Ms Bhutto.

They also eulogised her commitment to Pakistan and Kashmir cause.

In Muzaffarabad, the main function was the launching of a blood donors’ organisation in the name of Ms Bhutto. PPAJK vice president Khawaja Farooq Ahmed was the chief guest.

As many as 40 people volunteered themselves for blood donation but the organisers accepted blood from only 13, most of them belonging to the suburban areas of the state capital.

Mr Azhar, who was the first of those 13 donors, said they would recall the rest for blood donation as and when required by any thalassaemia patient.

Hina Naz, 15, suffering from the disease, expressed her gratitude to the donors as well as the organisers for launching the organisation for their welfare.

Speaking on the occasion, Mr Ahmed said: “Today we reaffirm our resolve to continue our efforts to achieve the goals set by our leadership for our beloved Pakistan and Kashmir.”

Other speakers, including Raja Sajid Hussain, Abdul Razzaq Khan, Nazir Anjum, Faisal Mir, Naseer Hydri and L.B. Farooqi, vowed to utilise their resources and energies to translate the vision of their great leader into a reality.

Separately, spouse of PPAJK’s secretary general and minister for finance Chaudhry Latif Akbar and mother of minister Faisal Mumtaz Rathore organised gatherings of female party workers at their residences. In Mirpur, a special prayer meeting was also held.

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