• Caravan from Quaid’s mausoleum reaches Matli
• PPP leader invites other parties to help end PTI rule
• Protesters to gather in Islamabad after passing through 35 cities
KARACHI: Heralding the beginning of a “war on Prime Minister Imran Khan and his government”, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) workers and supporters led by chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari on Sunday began to march towards the federal capital from the Quaid-i-Azam’s mausoleum with the pledge that the long march would demonstrate that Imran Khan’s government had lost the nation’s trust.
Charged workers of the Sindh’s ruling party, including women and children, turned up in large numbers to participate in what they called a “final push” against the “weakened and unjust” government at the Centre, as the PPP chairman raised a 38-point charter of demands and called for a nationwide and unified movement of all opposition parties to bring down the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) rule.
After travelling for more than eight hours, the caravan made its first stopover at Sujawal, where large crowds joined it and listened to their leader, before leaving for Matli for an overnight stay.
In his loud, clear and strong-worded speech, Mr Bhutto-Zardari sounded confident about the success of the anti-inflation campaign of the opposition parties and described the long march as the ‘beginning’ of the end of the premier’s rule through a ‘no-trust move’ in the parliament.
“You [people of the country] have heralded a war and let me tell you that Islamabad is trembling,” the PPP chairman said to the roar of the crowd at the Mazar-i-Quaid before leaving Karachi.
“This storm of public anger against Niazi and his government is just the beginning of what lies ahead. From now onwards for the next 10 days, people from across the country would send him message of their sentiments and make countdown. It’s a beginning. It’s a beginning of an end. It’s beginning of a new era. It’s a beginning of a realization [prevailing] among the masses that how their dreams were snatched over the last three years and their hopes were stolen in the name of change.”
While bidding farewell to the PPP chairman for his 10-day journey from Karachi to Islamabad, his younger sister Aseefa Bhutto-Zardari earlier tied an Imam-Zamin on his arm and prayed for him. A video clip of the occasion shared on social media stirred emotions as it reminded many of their mother and slain ex-premier Benazir Bhutto’s caravan, which was hit by twin blasts in 2007. Sharing their photos on social media, Ms Aseefa prayed for the success of her brother’s role in leading the caravan that would cover 2,000kms and pass through 35 cities to reach Islamabad on March 10.
Mr Bhutto-Zardari arrived a little before 1pm, as workers waited anxiously at Mazar-i-Quaid for their leader, and made a speech before leading the caravan via Sharea Faisal to leave the port city by evening after marching for more than five hours on different roads.
For Pakistan, the PPP chairman said, the last few years had been catastrophic. “Workers are jobless, farmers are not paid for their labour, factories are closed and minorities are under attack. These elements are right now shaping up the foundation of our society. This regime seeks to divide, polarise and sabotage. The PPP has always sought to unite. We need to unite against the criminal regime and end this reign of misrule and injustice,” he said.
Earlier, the party released a 38-point charter of demands, seeking social development programme, electoral reforms, effective justice system, sustainable economic policy, and a strong foreign policy aimed at connecting Pakistan with rest of the world instead of the steps that were isolating the country with the international community.
The PPP chairman called the PTI government a ‘fascist regime’ made every attempt to strangle political sanity in the country before turning to gag the media and freedom of expression through a black law. “It’s a reflection of the senses this government is losing as it has now come up with the law [Pakistan Electronic Crime Amendment Ordinance] to silence all critical voices,” he said.
“The illegal, incompetent regime foolishly seeks to enslave us, and this regime will be defeated like the fascist regimes of the past and will be consigned to the dustbin of history. This regime has to be defeated and it has to be defeated now.”
Hopelessness, poverty, and helplessness were not the destiny of the people of Pakistan, the PPP chairman said, adding that the people had endured and prevailed over dictatorship and fascism earlier as well and would do it again.
“[Since] the crisis is deep, our response needs to be robust and urgent,” said Mr Bhutto-Zardari. “Now the time has come for a final push. We will march the length of the country and demonstrate beyond any iota of doubt that this government has completely and unanimously lost the confidence of the people of Pakistan and that there is no moral, legal or political reason for it to remain in power any longer. Each day that this illegal and immoral regime spends in power means more poverty, more injustice, more cruelty and more fascism. This is a cost that people of Pakistan and the PPP are not willing to bear.”
Published in Dawn, February 28th, 2022