KARACHI: The stage has been set to launch the young chairman of the Pakistan Peoples Party, Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, into practical politics when he establishes his first direct contact with the masses by addressing a public meeting at Bagh-i-Jinnah adjacent to the mausoleum of the Quaid-i-Azam on Saturday.

The meeting would be a show of strength of liberal and progressive forces and break all previous records of political rallies held so far in the metropolis, said Sindh PPP president and Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah.

Syed Ali Nawaz Shah, a founding member of the PPP, who reached Karachi from Mirpurkhas at the head of a big procession, said the public meeting would on the one hand reaffirm the PPP’s commitment to the federation and on the other energise the party’s rank and file.

PPP senator Saeed Ghani said the enthusiasm shown by people in the rally proved that they had complete trust in Mr Bhutto-Zardari’s ability to accomplish the mission left incomplete because of his mother’s assassination — the mission of strengthening democracy and creating a society based on social justice.

He said the number of people to attend the public meeting could be easily gauged from the reports that people from the interior of Sindh alone were coming in 25,000 four-wheelers while 3,000 buses had been arranged in Karachi to help people to reach the meeting venue from different parts of the city.

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He said that they expected a million people would come who would fill the ground to capacity and necessary arrangements had also been made on adjacent roads for the spillover.

The over 35-acre ground, according to Sindh PPP Information Secretary Syed Waqar Mehdi, could easily hold an estimated number of 350,000 people. Six standby generators had been arranged to ensure lighting in case of a power breakdown, he said.

Twelve multimedia screens and over a thousand speakers had been installed so that people did not face any difficulty in viewing proceedings and speeches, he said.

He said that all vehicles would be parked two kilometres away from the meeting venue and people would have to walk to it while a special enclosure had been made for journalists and their vehicles would be parked at Nishtar Park.

All participants would have to pass through walk-through gates after undergoing thorough body search. The outer security had been given to police and Rangers and the movement of people would be monitored through closed-circuit television cameras, he said.

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Five entry points have been designated at the venue — three for men, one for women and one for VIPs’ movement — while the entire area has been closed by containers. Bomb disposal teams and fire brigades will be available until the conclusion of the meeting, according to Mehdi.

The party has tried to infuse enthusiasm among people with regard to the public meeting by setting up reception camps across the city where party workers were seen dancing to the tunes of party songs and anthems.

Besides, rallies were taken out over the past two days by PPP activists from all parts of the city on motorcycles holding party banners, portraits of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Benazir Bhutto, Mr Bhutto-Zardari and co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari.

Party flags, hoardings and banners have been put up along the main arteries of the city, at the roundabouts and at vintage points. The party secretariat and the nearby roundabout have also been illuminated profusely.

‘Mother’s mission’

PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari has said that he is an heir of martyrs and is ready to finish the incomplete mission of his mother.

“The PPP is people’s power and symbol of the federation and by ascending this truck we are starting the caravan of democracy for the protection of democracy,” said Mr Bhutto-Zardari while inaugurating the “Karwan-i-Jamhooriyat Truck” on Friday at Bilawal House which would take him to the venue of the public meeting at Bagh-i-Jinnah.

When he climbed the truck the party workers cheered him by raising slogans of “Ya Allah Ya Rasool, Benazir Bequsoor; Charon Soobon kee Zanjeer, Benazir and Jiye Bhutto, Jiye Benazir”.

He said the journey was started by her mother on Oct 18, 2007, on returning from a long exile and “… now we’ll accomplish her mission”.

He said: “All those who live in Pakistan are our people, people of Khyber Pukhtunkhwa are my shoulders, Balochistan is my dignity and those in Punjab are my life while people who live in Sindh are my power.”

Published in Dawn, October 18th, 2014