Figure of speech: Benazir statue stirs up Thatta

Published: March 1, 2012

The statue depicts Bhutto in a purple shalwar kameez, waving to people as she descends from the stage where she made her last speech before being assassinated in Rawalpindi in 2007. PHOTO: EPA/FILE

HYDERABAD: A statue of Benazir Bhutto, in the market of Mirpur Bhatoro town of Thatta district, has stirred a controversy between the court and supporters of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP).

Rajab Ali Soomro filed a case in the civil court for a stay order against the construction of the statue in 2011. The statue has been constructed in front of Dodo Soomro’s shop, who is Rajab’s father. He submitted that only the pedestal of the statue was built at the time the case was filed.

The statue depicts Bhutto in a purple shalwar kameez, waving to people as she descends from the stage where she made her last speech before being assassinated in Rawalpindi in 2007. According to PPP, the statue was built around four years ago by MPA Arbab Wazir Memon, whose shops are located next to Soomro’s.

A stay order against the construction by a senior civil judge, Maqsood Memon, at the Sajjawal Civil Court was given on April 9, 2011. “The then Sajjawal Administrator Fareed Magsi filed a review case in the district and sessions court but the earlier decision was upheld,” said Pir Tarik, the petitioner’s lawyer. “However, Mukhtiarkar Saleem Jatoi did not implement the order and was charged with contempt.”

In February, Senior Civil Judge Nawaz Ali Shar asked for the report on the status of the statue and compliance of the order. “Malik Wasif [the current municipal administrator] was kept from carrying out the orders by MPA Memon’s men,” Tarik alleged.

For his part, Memon argued that he owned more shops than Soomro on the road front and the statue did not block Soomro’s shop. “It is built on government land and Soomro’s shop itself is built on encroached land,” he retorted.

Sajjawal taluka remained shut on Wednesday because a strike was called by the local leaders of the PPP against the order to remove the statue.

The PPP workers accused him of acting on behalf of the influential Shirazi family of Thatta, who are political rivals of the PPP. But the Shirazis deny the charge. “We don’t even have any relations with that person [the civil judge]. Shaheed Benazir is equally respectable for us,” MNA Ayaz Shah Shirazi clarified.

However, Mirpur Bathoro taluka, the home of the controversy remained open even though the PPP workers staged protests. Sindh Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah took notice of the incident and called the PPP leaders for a meeting at CM House on Wednesday. According to Memon, the party’s leadership decided at the meeting that they will file a review case in the Sindh High Court.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 1st, 2012.

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