KARACHI: With a daylong massive show of strength on the streets of Karachi, Pakistan Peoples Party Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari on Sunday hinted at capturing the city’s political arena in the 2018 general elections, hoping to benefit from divisions that have affected the rank and file of the rival Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM).
The PPP staged a “Salam-i-Shuhada rally” to remember those who lost their lives in the twin suicide bombing on the homecoming procession of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto at Karsaz here on Oct 18, 2007.
Accompanied by senior party leaders, including two former prime ministers Yousuf Raza Gilani and Raja Pervez Ashraf, the young chairman led the rally which began its journey from Bilawal House in Clifton in the afternoon and ended at midnight at Karsaz — the place where more than 150 people were killed nine years ago.
Big show held in Karachi to pay homage to those killed in bombing during Benazir’s 2007 procession
While a traffic diversion plan was in place, commuters and motorists faced immense difficulties because of security arrangements made for the rally whose route covered almost two entire districts — South and East. The PPP said it held the rally on the weekly holiday to cause less inconvenience to people.
Mr Bhutto-Zardari, who was riding a bombproof truck, addressed the participants of the rally on four spots. First, he spoke at the Bilawal Chowrangi in Clifton, then in Lyari from where he proceeded towards the Quaid’s mausoleum and finally at Karsaz.
Amid loud slogans, he said that the PPP would win the 2018 general election from all over the country with the support of people.
Carrying tri-coloured party flags, PPP workers were seen dancing to the tunes of party anthems which blared in full volume throughout the route of the rally.
In a thinly veiled reference to the split in the MQM, Mr Bhutto-Zardari said that those who used to talk about the division of Sindh themselves fell apart.
Referring to the election symbol of the MQM, kite, he said that his party had cut the kite’s string and now only arrow — the election symbol of the PPP — would attract votes in Karachi in the 2018 general elections.
Taking credit for replacing the chief minister of Sindh, he said: “I have brought change to Sindh, I am bringing change to the party and if you side with me, then we will also bring change to Pakistan.”
He criticised the Nawaz Sharif-led Pakistan Muslim League government and Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf.
Mr Bhutto-Zardari called upon the federal government to revive the national security committee of parliament; accept the bill presented by the PPP on the Panama Papers controversy in the National Assembly; implement the resolutions passed at the recent multiparty conference on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and appoint a full-time foreign minister immediately.
He said that if these demands were not met he would announce a long march on Islamabad on Dec 27, the ninth death anniversary of Benazir Bhutto, from Garhi Khuda Bakhsh, Larkana.
He asked the people not to be disappointed from present circumstances and join him to complete the unfinished mission of his late mother. “We will together get freedom from terrorism, for Kashmiris, from poverty, unemployment, illiteracy, sectarianism, from the (self-proclaimed) caretakers of religion and we will get freedom from Takht-i-Raiwind.”
He accused Prime Minister Sharif of putting the country on the path to destruction.
The PPP chief alleged that Nawaz Sharif had disappointed the people to such extent that they were rallying around an “immature player” whose politics of opposition was in fact strengthening him.
About the Karsaz tragedy, he said it was one of the biggest incidents of terrorism in the history of Pakistan.
Terming it an attack on the aspirations of people, he said his mother had come to Pakistan with great hopes to get the nation rid of extremists and chose Karachi for her homecoming since it was the city of the father of the nation Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah and heart of Pakistan.
He said that the PPP had rescued the country and democracy despite the assassination of Ms Bhutto.
Recalling the successes of the last PPP government at the centre, he said that his father, Asif Ali Zardari, raised the slogan of Pakistan Khappe and “we rid the country of a dictator, waved Pakistani flag again in Swat, took step towards elimination of poverty by initiating the Benazir Income Support Programme and put the country on road to progress”.
Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Syed Khurshid Shah, Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah, former CM Qaim Ali Shah, PPP’s Information Secretary Qamar Zaman Kaira, Senator Sherry Rehman and others were also present on the truck.
Published in Dawn, October 17th, 2016