PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari and sister Aseefa wave to supporters at the rally.—M. Arif / White Star
PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari and sister Aseefa wave to supporters at the rally.—M. Arif / White Star

LAHORE: Peoples Party on Sunday staged an impressive power show in rival PML-N’s stronghold of Lahore with Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari making an impassioned appeal to the supporters of both Nawaz Sharif and out-of-arena Imran Khan to vote for his party so that he could bury the “politics of vendetta”.

Addressing the public gathering at the Township cricket ground in Lahore’s NA-127 constituency from where he is contesting the election, Mr Bhutto-Zardari said his family and party workers were “tortured by PML-N” due to political vendetta, and he wouldn’t wish the same for any other party.

“Those who are still engaging in the politics of hatred and division are further dividing our society and country. The PPP will bury the politics of hate and division forever with the support of people. The followers of PTI should help me in this cause,” he said and claimed that PML-N took revenge on the PTI.

While addressing PTI workers, he claimed that PPP had tried to persuade Imran Khan to “do politics in a dignified manner” and not use foul language or imprison his rivals’ sisters and daughters.

Seeks PTI, ‘N’ supporters’ help to bury politics of hate; Aitzaz says Peoples Party is in ‘his blood’

The PPP leader also extended an olive branch to the PML-N workers, who “confronted former dictator Gen Musharraf and bore torture for the sake of their party”. He said his party “would respect their vote” and urged them to support PPP.

Among the notable political leaders who attended the gathering was Aitzaz Ahsan. The renowned lawyer, a central PPP leader, has been at odds with the party leadership over his proximity and support to ex-prime minister Imran Khan during his legal troubles.

However, in his speech at the rally, Mr Ahsan said PPP “is his family and in his blood and can’t be separated from him”.

He said an impression was being given that he was deviating from the party’s discipline and not part of PPP.

“It is completely wrong. I am standing in front of you. I am in the rally of Chairman [Bilawal] Bhutto and campaigning for him.”

‘Conspiracy against PPP’

Mr Bhutto-Zardari urged the voters to support him in steering the country out of economic, social and democratic crises.

“I wish to send a message to every person living in this city, province and country that they should not be disappointed. Pakistan is facing an unprecedented economic crisis, with a historic surge in inflation, unemployment and poverty. The people are suffering from an economic crisis on one hand and social, political and democratic crises on the other.” he told a public gathering.

Outlining his plan to address these issues, Mr Bhutto-Zaradari said 18 federal ministries that have been devolved to provinces are “consuming Rs300 billion” should be dissolved, and subsidies worth Rs1,500 billion being doled out to the elite will be withdrawn.

He announced the establishment of a ‘Truth and Reconciliation’ forum to address the issues of provinces and the federation and put the politics of hate, division, and vengeance to an end.

The PPP chairman continued that Pakistan is facing security challenges as terrorists were again trying to emerge.

Referring to taunts by some PML-N leaders that he is contesting from Lahore despite his party’s weak standing in Punjab, he said: “They try to mock the PPP by taunting us that our strength is low [in Punjab]. They need to be apprised that Lahore belongs to the PPP, not them.”

He said the residents of Lahore self-immolated to protest against the execution of PPP founder Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and also welcomed his mother, Benazir Bhutto, in a historic manner when she returned to Pakistan in 1986.

The PPP leader alleged that his party “was distanced from Lahore and Punjab under a conspiracy that hurt labourers, farmers, youngsters, women and minorities.”

“Showbaz and ‘Wasim Akram Plus’ were imposed on Punjab,” he said in reference to former Punjab chief ministers Shehbaz Sharif and Usman Buzdar, respectively.

“Is it the fate of the people of Lahore to bear such imposition repeatedly?” he questioned, adding that the country cannot be handed over to traditional politicians taking turns in power. “They forget the people and their promises after coming to power.”

Published in Dawn, January 22nd, 2024

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