PPP leaders, ‘jiyalas’ to honour BB’s memory today

Herald Report

For the first time since the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, the first woman Prime Minister of the Muslim world, the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) leaders, including party chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, are set to honour the memory of their late leader at Liaquat Bagh, Rawalpindi, on Friday (today).

“After 12 years, the PPP is holding a public meeting and it is an attempt to dispel the perception that the party would not be able to arrange a public rally in Rawalpindi,” PPP Senator Sherry Rehman said after visiting the site on Thursday.

On December 20, 2007, Benazir was killed in a gun and bomb attack at Liaquat Bagh when she was leaving the venue after addressing a large public gathering in connection with the elections.

PPP Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari is set to address the gathering for which party workers and supporters from all over Pakistan arrived in Rawalpindi. The party has made arrangements for participants’ stay in local hotels.

In a statement shared by PPP, Bilawal said Benazir was the “strongest chain of the federation of Pakistan” and those who assassinated her had “planned to break the chain but failed due to ‘Pakistan khappe’ slogan of President Asif Ali Zardari soon after the national tragedy”.

He said Pakistanis will never forget their “brave leader, who sacrificed everything for the country and for the rights of its downtrodden and barefoot masses”.

Ahead of today’s event, the venue and roads leading to it were decorated with PPP flags and pictures of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Benazir and Bilawal.

More than 50,000 seats have been arranged at Liaquat Bagh.

The Rawalpindi bench of the Lahore High Court on Thursday directed the district administration to provide all facilities and security for the event. Additionally, PPP has also made its own security arrangements.

The court also directed the district administration and police to provide Bilawal with adequate security upon his arrival in the city.

Earlier the Pindi administration had refused permission, citing security threats to Bilawal.

PPP city president Babar Sultan Jadoon immediately filed a petition in the LHC through his legal team challenging the decision of the district government.

Most of the participants from inner Sindh, KP, Balochistan, Punjab, Gilgit-Baltistan and AJK have already arrived. The party has made arrangements for their stay in local hotels.

Also read: https://www.dawn.com/news/1366832/special-report-daughter-of-the-east-1988-19901993-1996

Meanwhile, the PPP women wing and People’s Youth Organisation brought out rallies in different parts of the city. More than 200 youngsters brought out a rally of motorcycles from Faizabad.

“Jialas [PPP workers] from all over the country are on their way to Liaquat Bagh, but opponents and remnants of [former military dictator] Ziaul Haq faced problems over this,” said PPP-Parliamen­tarian Information Secretary Nafisa Shah during a visit to the venue to oversee preparations for the Friday event.

She blamed the government for trying to stop the PPP from holding the public meeting and warned that party workers and supporters would react over this. “If the workers rise against the conspiracy to stop them from observing the death anniversary of Benazir Bhutto, the remnants of Zia will find no place to hide,” she said.

Meanwhile, Dr Shah along with party leaders Rubina Khalid, Shaheen Dar, Sardar Ayub, Sadia Danish, Nargis Faiz Malik and Nazir Dhoki visited Liaquat Bagh to review the arrangements for the Friday event.

She said Liaquat Bagh had a historical status since Benazir Bhutto was assassinated here and Mr Bhutto-Zardari was coming to observe his mother’s death anniversary for the very first time.

Caravans of activists have already left for Rawalpindi from all four corners of Pakistan in the sizzling cold. After the mega event in Pindi, another even will begin at Benazir’s final resting place in Garhi Khuda Bakhsh, which will be participated by her youngest daughter Aseefa Bhutto Zardari as well as MNA Faryal Talpur. Early in the morning, recitation from the Holy Quran will be held at her grave, which will be followed by the distribution of free food among the participants.

Foolproof security arrangements have been made for the day. People will be checked through CCTV cameras, walkthrough gates, and metal detectors. Special Commando Force, policewomen and traffic police will also be deployed to ensure smooth flow of traffic and security. Teams of Bomb Disposal Squad will clear the premises before the event. Huge LED screens have also been installed to watch the PPP chairman’s address live.

PPP’s disappointing trajectory

The aim of the party, which was earlier refused permission by the local administration to hold a rally at Liaquat Bagh, is to create some heat and light that can revive its bleak political fortunes ever since the PPP received a drubbing in the 2013 elections, says daily Dawn, in its editorial comment on Dec 27.

Today will mark a moment of remembrance for the party but also one of reflection.

There is much to reflect on for a party that has gone from a truly national symbol of resistance to a regional outfit of acquiescence. The slide has been gradual and painful, the newspaper said.

From the fiery nationalism of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto to the fierce defiance of Benazir Bhutto to the wily pragmatism of Asif Ali Zardari, and now the unsteady aggression of Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, the PPP has seen and endured it all.

Today, however, the rank and file of the party — that battled with tyrants and wrestled with the establishment — is fighting for relevance.

Reduced to its stronghold of Sindh, the party today is wandering in the political wilderness in search of a message, a slogan, an electorate and some traction. So far it has found very little.

The reasons are not hard to fathom.

Decades of self-flagellation with whips of corruption and ill-governance have left the party politically bloodied and weakened. It continues to be haunted by its own demons of ineptitude that is continually fed fat on a diet of gross mismanagement and lack of performance in the one province that it rules. The most ominous part of this tragic story is that the PPP does not seem to have learned any lessons.

Does the leadership realise that it has almost been wiped out from its former stronghold of Punjab, and that it has been reduced to a negligible presence in Khyber Pukhtunkhwa?

Even in Sindh, it may be surviving on borrowed time as it has failed miserably to ensure good governance.

If the party leaders understand these grim realities, they are definitely not making any serious, focused and deliberate attempt to tackle the challenges they face.

Democracy is still fragile in Pakistan which needs leaders that raise a voice for progressive ideals and liberal values.

Mr Bhutto-Zardari may have shown that he is not reluctant to take firm positions on delicate matters but his task is to also transform the party by giving it a direction that can help it regain the trust of a disillusioned vote bank. This requires more than fiery speeches. Let him show what he can deliver in Sindh and the voter will judge him for that, the newspaper concluded.

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