KARACHI, Oct 18: Pakistan Peoples Party’s young chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari declared jihad against religious extremism and severely criticised all political adversaries when he addressed emotionally charged PPP workers gathered at Karsaz area here on Friday to observe the sixth anniversary of a massive bomb attack on the homecoming rally of Benazir Bhutto. The blast left over 150 workers of the party dead.
In the hard-hitting speech, his first since turning 25 last month and attaining eligibility to contest general election, the PPP chief vehemently attacked all opponents and did not spare even the Muttahida Qaumi Movement which had been an ally of the PPP — off and on — in the past.
About his party’s stance on militancy, he said: “We declare jihad against those who abuse Islam. We’ll show the real face of those political monsters who play the role of watchmen of justice.”
Amid loud slogans -- some of them coated with religious connotations — he accused the banned Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) of having tried to kill his mother the day she arrived home after eight years of self-exile.
“October 18 six years ago was a day of joy until the night fell and TTP’s beasts attempted to kill our BB (Benazir Bhutto) by attaching a bomb to the body of an innocent infant,” he said.
“It was a great day when three million people from across the country gathered in Karachi to celebrate BB’s homecoming. It was a day when everyone was there to welcome her.”
He lauded workers of his party who had sacrificed their lives to save their leader.
“Everyone knows and it is human nature to run away from a place where danger lies, but our brave Jannisars swam against the tide and ran to the place where danger lay. They sacrificed their lives but saved the life of our BB.”
“Such valour could be found only in PPP because it is not just a political party, it is a passion, it is a craze and it is zenith of love for which everyone — from our workers to leaders — sacrificed their lives.”
During the PPP government, he said, they could not eradicate terrorism “but we faced terrorists gallantly and fought against them with all our strength”.
“Ours is a party of brave people. It is a party of martyrs,” he said as crowd chanted “Ya Allah, Ya Rasool, Benazir Beqasur”.
He paid tribute to slain Punjab governor Salman Taseer and federal minister Shahbaz Bhatti who had been killed in separate attacks in the wake of a controversy over blasphemy law.
“It is the party of martyrs like Salman Taseer and Shahbaz Bhatti who sacrificed their lives to the cause of providing justice to the lovers of Jesus.”
Cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan, head of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf, was the one who received the harshest treatment and the PPP leader called him a ‘cowardly’ person.
“PPP is not a party of that Buzdil (cowardly) Khan, an apologist of all sorts for terrorists,” Bilawal said. “He (the PTI chief) stood outside a bombed church in Peshawar and made excuses for the terrorists who killed more than 80 innocent people.”
Discussing his party’s prospects five years later when a general election will be held, he said his father, former president Asif Ali Zardari, was a bow and he himself an arrow while facing the opponents.
“Asif Zardari! You will be a bow and I will be an arrow of my workers in election-2018.” Then he took on his political adversaries one by one, with all the eloquence in his arsenal.
“Together, we’ll hunt that lion of Punjab who fills his stomach with the blood of my poor brothers. Together, we will save our people of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, who at present are drowning in the flood caused by the tsunami.”
Mr Zardari never criticises the MQM since taking the reins of the party and no-one expected it from the young PPP chief as well. But his zeal swayed him afar.
“Pakistan had won freedom from Britain in 1947 but our Karachi is still a colony of London. We’ll cut the kite controlled by phone calls from London.”
He said the PPP had sacrificed Benazir Bhutto and thousands of its workers in 2007, but this time around, “we sacrificed a hundred seats to save the lives of our workers”.
He said that the parties which took refuge in the ranks of terrorists were celebrating and boasting that they had defeated the PPP “but I want to tell them that it is in our blood to bounce back and we will do it again”.
“I sacrificed my childhood so that my mother could take care of your party. I have sacrificed my mother for you and this country. You too have rendered unprecedented sacrifices for this party,” he said while addressing PPP workers.”
“I promise that I will always fight for you. I will wage a battle for you. If you have sacrificed your son for this party then I am your son from today; anyone from you who have lost a brother for the party’s cause, consider me a brother. Bilawal Bhutto was and is always yours and will remain so in future,” he said.
Earlier, he laid a wreath at the memorial of victims of the Karsaz bombing and offered prayers for them.
Sindh Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah, PPP leader Mian Raza Rabbani and other party leaders were present on the occasion.