SAHIWAL: Supporters of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) see Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari’s upcoming visit to Sahiwal as a momentous event.
The PPP chairman is scheduled to address a public gathering at Sheikh Zafar Ali Stadium on Sept 20 and the party leaders claim that they are going the extra mile to make the event a success. This is going to be a historic occasion, they say, as it’s after 23 years any member of the Bhutto family is visiting the city.
The late Benazir Bhutto visited the city as prime minister in 1994 when she inaugurated Faridiya Park, Sui gas connection and Farid Town’s Telephone Exchange. She was also scheduled to address her next public gathering in Sahiwal on Dec 30, 2007 but just three days before that she was assassinated in Rawalpindi.
PPP Punjab President Qamar Zaman Kaira is spearheading arrangements for Bilawal’s visit. He told the media that the PPP was holding a gathering at Sheikh Zafar Ali Stadium on Sept 20 which is third of the nine events being planned for divisional headquarters of Punjab. He said the main purpose of the gathering was to launch a mass-contact campaign.
Mr Kaira said he had met all delegations and requested them to bridge their differences to make it a historic event.
Zaki Chaudhry, PPP’s district president, said leaders of all wings of the divisional and three district headquarters – Sahiwal, Okara and Pakpattan -- had been mobilised for the upcoming gathering.
Earlier, Mr Kaira held a meeting which was attended by the provincial, divisional and district leaders. Mian Manzoor Wattoo, Khurram Jahangir Wattoo, Shahzad Rafiq Cheema, Nadeem Afzal Chan, Ali Nawaz Bhatti and Gulam Farid Kathia were among the participants.
In order to track down the history of Bhutto family’s public gatherings in Sahiwal, this correspondent spoke to PPP stalwarts and jiyalas. According to information, PPP founder Zulfikar Ali Bhutto visited Sahiwal in 1968 and addressed a public gathering at Sardar Aleem’s house besides speaking at the District Bar Association. One year earlier, he was incarcerated in Montgomery Jail during Ayub Khan’s regime and besides Begum Nusrat Bhutto, Khursheed Mahmood Kasuri and Air Marshal Asghar Khan visited him in jail. Begum Nusrat Bhutto also led a protest rally organised by local leaders on tongas.
Mr Bhutto subsequently twice visited Sahiwal -- once in 1970 and then in 1977. The next year, Benazir Bhutto visited Sahiwal and Okara city by road after addressing a gathering in Kasur. She figured in the event at Khawaja Hasan Askari’s house but military regime of Ziaul Haq issued her house arrest order. She was taken to Raja Ahmed Saeed’s house in Farid Town, which was declared “sub jail” by the regime.
Zaki Chaudhry said more than 25,000 people are expected to welcome the party chairman. “It’s going to be a big show and will kick off the PPP’s public contact campaign both in central and south Punjab for the 2018 general election,” he told journalists.
Published in Dawn, September 14th, 2017