LARKANA: Anticipation is in the air as Pakistan Peoples Party observes the 9th death anniversary of its slain leader Benazir Bhutto at Garhi Khuda Bakhsh Bhutto on Tuesday where former president Asif Ali Zardari will make his first major appearance alongside his son and party chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari after return from an 18-month self-imposed exile.

Workers’ caravans were arriving in the dusty village from different parts of the country and were being guided by party volunteers to their designated camps established inside the main pindal.

Tricolour party flags, banners and life-size portraits of Benazir Bhutto, Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari and Asif Ali Zardari adorn the venue of the public meeting as well as the route to the pindal.

Reception camps have been set up in Larkana and adjoining towns which are welcoming participants with party songs being played at full volume. Almost all hotels have been booked to capacity though they had raised rent to take advantage of the event.

Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah along with his cabinet members arrived at the Bhuttos’ mausoleum and held a meeting with party leaders and acting Sindh police chief Mushtaq Mahar to review security arrangements.

Meanwhile, PPP provincial chief Nisar Ahmed Khuhro held a meeting with mazar committee to finalise arrangements for the anniversary.

Security in and around the pindal, the mausoleum and the camp office of former president Asif Zardari at Naudero has been beefed up. Commandos have been deployed along the roads leading to the camp office and a number of roads had been completely sealed off.

Parking areas for the participants’ vehicles have been set up at a distance of about a kilometre from the mausoleum where caravans of zealous workers were seen pouring in from almost all nooks and corners of the country.

The first thing they do after alighting from their vehicles is to make a rush to the resting place of their revered leaders, offer fateha and lay floral wreaths on the graves amid full-throated slogans of Jeay Bhutto sada jeay.

Among the participants was a group of 10 cyclists who had pedalled all the way from Rajanpur in Punjab to pay homage to their slain leader. The group was led by Azizullah Anjum, president of Peoples Youth Wing, Rajanpur.

Earlier, PPP-W workers led by party leaders Safdar Abbasi, Haji Munawwar Ali Abbasi, Ms Naheed Khan and others arrived at the mausoleum in a large procession after conclusion of a workers convention in nearby Waleed village.

Amid loud slogans, they laid floral wreaths on the graves of Z.A. Bhutto, Benazir Bhutto and other members of Bhutto family and offered fateha.

Talking to journalists after visiting the mausoleum, Dr Safdar Abbasi and Ms Naheed Khan said the party which Benazir Bhutto had strengthened with her 30 years’ struggle had now been confined to Sindh only thanks to Asif Ali Zardari.

Benazir fought against dictators to save the party but now it had been deprived of its genuine spirit, they said.

They said that Mr Zardari headed PPP-Parliamentarians while the case for the genuine PPP was pending a verdict in Islamabad High Court. “We will only consider the offer should it come from PPP after the announcement of court decision,” they said.

They said that party workers were dejected and the party itself was gradually losing popularity in Sindh. “We are here to pay homage to Benazir Bhutto who laid down her life for the sake of democracy and supremacy of law in the country but never compromised her principles,” they said.

Earlier, two-day workers’ convention was held in Waleed village which was chaired by party president Dr Safdar Abbasi. The convention decided to accelerate party’s organisational work in the country.

According to party sources, Dr Abbasi would hold an important press conference on Wednesday.

Published in Dawn, December 27th, 2016

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