• Party leaders from Islamabad, Rawalpindi fail to meet their target of bringing 100,000 people l Most participants come from KP, Sindh • DJ Butt, Arif Lohar keep people entertained
ISLAMABAD: The PPP public gathering in Islamabad on Tuesday, held to mark the 50th founding day of the party, saw larger turnout than the party’s other recent events largely due to participation by workers and supporters from Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
According to capital administration and police estimates, between 16,000 and 20,000 people attended the meeting, the majority of whom had come from Sindh, KP and some from Punjab.
However, the party’s Punjab information secretary, Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar, said the party estimates that between 70,000 and 80,000 people came to attend, which he said was “very reasonable for the federal capital” and which was more than what he had expected.
He said PPP is a symbol of federation and that is why people from across the country had come to participate.
“This is why we had performances, dances and songs from all the four provinces. But such a large ground cannot be filled with just people from other areas. A large number of people from the twin cities also attended the meeting,” he said.
The party had invited DJ Butt to play at the event, who gained national fame by performing at Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf events, and Arif Lohar also performed folk songs.
According to capital administration officials, six entry points were designated at the venue with entry one reserved for VIPs where 200 chairs were arranged. Entry two was reserved for PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari who came to the gathering a little after 5pm. Separate entrances were reserved for women and media, those with access to the stage, other important personalities and the general public.
People were seen dancing and chanting party slogans.
A number of stalls were set up where flags and caps were being sold and some of them also offered face painting.
A large number of law enforcement officials were deputed at the venue and walk-through gates were also installed and, though the Capital Development Authority had not granted permission to the party for putting up streamers, flags and banners, such decorations could be spotted on most main roads of the capital on Tuesday.
Most of the workers and supporters from Sindh and KP said they had travelled to hear Bilawal speak due to their affiliation with the party’s founder and that they believed the party can be revived with a little effort.
Kamran Qureshi, a student of intermediate, had come to attend the event from Bhimber Darar near Kahuta and said his father and grandfather had been supporters of the late Zulfikar Ali Bhutto which is why he had come to hear Bilawal’s speech.
“PPP’s graph went down during the tenure of Asif Ali Zardari and it can go back up if the party plays its cards well,” he said.
PPP needs just a little effort to revive the party, as it is well known across the country, said Fazlur Rehman, a resident of Malakand Agency.
“I think Bilawal has a bright future and he should start leading the party. There is huge support for PPP in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa,” he said.
Zahoor Khan, who had come from Mardan, said the party’s popularity had been affected by corruption charges.
“However, most people do not think of Bilawal as corrupt and things can therefore get better if overall control of the party is given to him. I was very impressed with how large the audience at Parade Ground was today,” he said.
A former PPP officeholder, Shabir Ahmed Ansari, said the party does have a lot of supporters in Punjab but they do not want to attend events due to the lack of true leadership in the party.
He added that the PPP leadership should make more efforts to bring back estranged workers, as they know better how to revive the party in Punjab again.
Though the party had set a target of 100,000 people from Rawalpindi, only 1,000 people from the garrison city came to the meeting, according to a senior party worker.
Party workers and supporters from Rawalpindi gathered at the Benazir Bhutto Memorial at Liaquat Bagh and departed for the public meeting at 2:30pm.
Haji Gulzar Awan and former MNA Zamrud Khan brought two separate rallies from the cantonment areas and another rally was brought out from the city areas by City President Babar Jadoon and Nasir Mir.
According to a senior party leader, former city president Zamrud Khan’s rally consisted of about 25 cars and that of Babar Jadoon was 40 cars strong.
The local PPP chapter did not establish camps on the roadside or install banners for the public meeting despite directives by the party leadership.
Two other rallies from Lahore and adjoining areas were stuck in traffic after Murree Road and G.T. Road were closed due to road accidents. Participants of the rally thought it was a tactic by the provincial government to stop them from attending the meeting.
According to the party’s district chapter spokesperson, Mohammad Shahid, the roads were opened after members of the rally started protesting.
However, senior police officials said there were no such directives from the government and that the roads were closed due to road accidents. Traffic jams were observed on the Islamabad Highway, Club Road and other roads of the federal capital due to the public gathering.
Published in Dawn, December 6th, 2017