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KARACHI: Ending his 18-month self-imposed exile, Pakistan Peoples Party co-chairman and former president of Pakistan Asif Ali Zardari returned to the country on Friday and told a big cheering crowd of party workers that a struggle would be launched with the support of people to check the repression unleashed by a capitalist family, a veiled reference to the ruling family in Islamabad, on them.

Without naming his political adversaries, Mr Zardari said they should clear their misconception that the PPP leaders would ever run away from the country, “because our bodies were buried here ... we will die here and will be buried in Garhi Khuda Bakhsh. How could we leave the people of Pakistan alone and that too when the capitalist family has unleashed repression on them? We will check them with the power of the people by launching a struggle along with workers, peasants, youths and people from every section of society. We will also strive in the parliament and assemblies because according to our philosophy, democracy is the best revenge”.

Mr Zardari abruptly left Pakistan in June 2015 after delivering a hard-hitting speech in which he had lashed out at the military establishment for overstepping its domain. In his June 16 speech, the former president had warned the establishment to refrain from character assassination of political parties stating, “if you do not stop, I will come out with a list of accused generals since Pakistan’s creation”.

Wearing the traditional dress, shalwar qameez with a Sindhi cap, as soon as he ascended the bullet-proof truck to address the reception rally arranged by the Karachi chapter of the party on the road from the old terminal of the airport to Star Gate, the beaming PPP co-chairman was welcomed by the cheering crowd with the slogans of “Jiye Bhutto, jiye Benazir and ek Zardari, sub per bhari”.

PPP co-chairman assures supporters of some good news on Dec 27

Former prime ministers Yousuf Raza Gilani and Raja Parvez Ashraf, Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah, Qamar Zaman Kaira, Syed Khurshid Shah, Syed Qaim Ali Shah, Nisar Khuhro, Agha Siraj Durrani and Waqar Mehdi were also on the deck.

National and party flags were flying on the stage while the entire venue from Star Gate to the old airport was decorated with banners and photos of Mr Zardari, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Benazir Bhutto, Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari and others.

In his 15-minute speech, he touched on almost all issues confronting the nation and assured the supporters that he would give them some good news when they meet again on Dec 27.

However, he said, any alternative to democracy was very dangerous for the country. “We don’t want to become a Syria as Pakistan would never be a failed state.

“Many important developments are taking place in the world but I have not come to disappoint you, as it was a matter of satisfaction that with the grace of Allah, power of the armed forces and the unity of people the geographical borders of Pakistan are secured.”

Referring to the Kashmir issue, he said the flag of Pakistan had become a symbol of struggle where brave Kashmiri youths were facing the big Indian army and Hindu imperialism with courage and striving for their independence. He paid tribute to the Kashmiris for their untiring struggle saying that Kashmir is destined to become part of Pakistan.

Referring to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), the former president said that the man who had perceived this plan was not being asked, as those who had no vision were only interested in getting contracts. “Our perception of the CPEC is for our coming generation whose future is linked with it,” he said. He said the CPEC would result in the overall development in the region. This era was the period of importance of the East and as such the future belonged to Pakistan and China and the people of the region, he said.

No doubt, he said, no nation worked for any other nation as mutual needs became the basis of cooperation with each other. He said the CPEC would not only benefit Pakistan and China but also open the gates of development for Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Sindh, Balochistan and Punjab. The next generation of Pakistan would be a more developed nation, he added.

He said in the past, the forces that be did not give a level-playing field to the PPP by carving out constituencies according to their whims, but even then after the martyrdom of Mohtrama Benazir Bhutto, the PPP emerged victorious. For the first time, the elected government of civilians was able to complete its constitutional term of five years. He said he did not want to indulge in the debate whether the mandate claimed by Mian (Nawaz Sharif) sahib was right or wrong but the power was transferred to his party democratically so that democracy should continue in the country as its alternative was extremely dangerous for Pakistan.

He said the day would come again when with the support and power of people, the PPP would return to the parliament and form the government to change the country’s destiny.

Raising the slogan of Jiye Bhutto, the former President said that Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Mohtrama Benazir Bhutto were mercilessly martyred but recalled her address to the US congress where she had emphatically said: “Democracy is the best revenge”. He said: “Now we will move forward with slogan of “Pakistan Khappe”.

Earlier at the start of his speech, he recalled the party workers’ love and sincerity which they had demonstrated on the homecoming of Benazir Bhutto. He expressed gratitude to the people who had come to receive him with enthusiasm.

Published in Dawn December 24th, 2016