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FAISALABAD: PPP workers say that without giving importance and respect to workers, the revival of the party in Punjab will remain a dream.

Several workers attended a reception on Friday at the residence of Ijaz Chaudhry on Samundri Road where party chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari spoke. They were, however, more eager to convey their concerns to the party leader. They kept on raising slogans during his speech.

Their efforts did not go in vain.

Bilawal called some workers’ representatives to the stage and assured them their apprehensions would be removed for the well-being of the party and the country.

Saeed Ali, of Samundri, was among the audience, who wanted to be heard by the party leader.

He told reporters the arrogance of party leaders had annoyed the party workers whose elders had sacrificed their lives for the mission of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. He said a majority of the workers had come to know about the meeting only through media reports.

Another activist, Nasir, said once Faisalabad was considered mini-Larakna because of the strong vote bank of the PPP. Over the time, the party had shrunk to such a level that the chairman had to address a rally at Zila Council Chowk, which otherwise should have taken place at the historical Dhobi Ghat Ground.

He said Benazir Bhutto had launched her political career from the Dhobi Ghat Ground and Asif Ali Zardari had also addressed a huge gathering here. However, differences among party leaders and their defections had disheartened workers.

Until 2008, the PPP kept winning Faisalabad constituencies. Its candidates Tariq Bajwa (NA-75), Malik Nawab Sher Waseer (NA-76), Raheela Parveen Baloch (NA-78), Saeed Iqbal (NA-81) and Ijaz Virk (NA-83) won elections with good votes. Farooq Saeed (NA-79) had won as an independent candidate as he was refused party ticket. He also joined the party.

The 2013 elections, however, saw humiliating defeat of party candidates in Faisalabad.

Bilawal was also well aware of the low morale among the workers.

In his passionate address, he urged them to pursue the philosophy of party founder Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and the mission of his slain mother, Benazir Bhutto.

He said warm welcome by workers to his Lahore-to-Faisalabad procession showed the party had roots in the province. He criticised the ruling Sharif family, saying they were playing with the future of Pakistan. He said the Panamagate was a big scandal.

Earlier, the party hosted a breakfast reception for workers and leaders at a local hotel.

The party chairman left the stage to meet a physically-challenged worker, Younas Anjum, of Jaranwala. He sat on the floor for a brief chat with Mr Anjum. Visibly overjoyed, the worker told Mr Bhutto-Zardari that once his mother Benazir Bhutto had also come to see him from stage.

During the visit, the party chairman conducted interviews of leaders for party offices. He also visited the residence of former PPP city president Chacha Mushtaq to condole the demise of his mother.

Published in Dawn January 21st, 2017