THATTA, Feb 9: The Pakistan People’s Party would work for a new “political contract” between the federating units and the centre. The assassination of Benazir Bhutto “by the people running the old system” had made this necessary, PPP co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari told a public meeting here on Saturday.

Speaking at the meeting — the first election event held by the PPP since Ms Bhutto’s assassination — he said the slain leader sacrificed her life for the prosperity and integrity of Pakistan, warning that if polls were rigged, things might go out of control.

The PPP co-chairman said he would not allow the “people in power in Islamabad” to continue “oppression and tyranny” against the common man in all the provinces.

“We would take our own line of action if the establishment tries to block the PPP’s path, which is the only representative party in the country.”

He said he was a political disciple of the late Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, adding that he had learnt a lot from Benazir Bhutto as well. He said no one in the family had ever feared in their worst nightmare that Ms Bhutto would meet a horrible fate.

He said he had advised Ms Bhutto against returning to the country, but she ignored the suggestion out of a conviction that the people had an “unshakable love for the Bhuttos”. The masses vindicated her faith in them by pouring into Garhi Khuda Bakhsh in the thousands after her demise, Mr Zardari said.

He said he did not aspire to power because he was a follower of Benazir Bhutto. “I have entrusted the party leadership to my son in pursuance of Benazir Bhutto’s will.”

He said he was opening the party’s election campaign from Thatta because Ms Bhutto had always told him to be the first man to reach out to places where “oppression and tyranny” were rampant.

Referring to Ms Bhutto’s will, Mr Zardari said the document was exceptional in that she had espoused the cause of the downtrodden. He said he had gained political maturity after 11 years in jail, adding that the establishment had kept him behind bars to pressure Benazir Bhutto.

“If I am murdered in pursuit of the people’s cause, I should be buried in Garhi Khuda Bakhsh.”

He said the people of Pakistan were the real owners of the country and the politicians were bound to serve the masses. He urged the party’s supporters to convert the loss of Benazir Bhutto into their strength and avenge her assassination by bringing her party to power.

He said: “We are not afraid of the weapons wielded by the establishment” and the party would take its own line of action if its path to power through democracy was blocked.

Tens of thousands of people in the gathering responded in unison when he asked them whether they rejected or accepted the Scotland Yard’s report.

Makhdoom Amin Fahim, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Sassui Palijo, Fehmida Mirza, Humera Alwani, Shagufta Jumani, Babar Awan, Imtiaz Qureshi, Arbab Wazir, Jalil Memon, Wahid Soomro and Mehreen Bhutto also spoke on the occasion.

Thousands of people from Badin, Hyderabad and other districts of Sindh trekked to Thatta to attend the public meeting.

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