By Tuesday mid-afternoon, there is no sign of the VIPs supposed to be at Garhi Khuda Bux, beyond the security gates being unpacked from cardboard boxes. This, for now, is solely an affair for the fans of the Bhuttos, driven by their love.
Bearing bags of flowers, they throng the graves. Ghulam Fareed from Kohat leads the chants and makes a speech. “Bhutto gave us a constitution, he told us to serve the people. I was in jail when Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was hanged. They’d put me in jail for being a Bhutto supporter.”
Ghulam Fareed is putting on a show for the rest of those at the mausoleum. He chants, they echo.
The others wander around, some clutching posters of Benazir, others with painted banners. One wears a kameez in the PPP colours of red, green and black, others have customised t-shirts for the occasion. They pose at the mausoleum and with a blown-up scan of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s National Identity Card. The address is simply put: “Prime Minister House, Rawalpindi”.
One group from Balochistan railed against Rehman Malik and the atrocities in Lyari. “Our people are dying,” a man yelled to television cameras.
Dozens of police officials are on duty at the mausoleum. One looks rather tired. “This has become a hurdle for us. How are we supposed to check all of these people?”
The flow of people does not stop and outside the mausoleum, people are doing a brisk business selling food, drinks and PPP mementos, including photos of the Bhuttos. Priced at Rs10 each, visitors can buy a photo of a young Zulfikar Jr or of the Bhutto family holidaying.
At 3:20pm, there is a flurry of activity. The first major VIP of the day – Sindh Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah – is expected to arrive. A dais, draped in Ajrak, is brought in. The show for the cameras is about to begin. Shah is instantly surrounded by people, and he makes his way to the grave as a deafening cheer of ‘Jiye Bhutto’ goes up.
While Shah leaves without speaking to the press, the sliding wooden doors to the mausoleum remain closed. The prime minister is the next big visitor, and the shrine is emptied out of the few people who managed to stay in, as well as of the press.
Standing outside the mausoleum is Khalid Mahmood, whose father was once head of the PPP in Khanpur, Rahimyar Khan.
“What is a jiyala?”
“A jiyala is someone who will stay hungry, stay thirsty. There are supporters, but there are jiyalas, people like us who have just had their first drink of water. They are not scared of bombs or bullets.”
He has shaken hands with Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Benazir. He wants to shake hands with President Zardari, but the opportunity has yet to present itself.
Former Senate chairman Farooq Naek told reporters at the mausoleum that it was time to “support the government instead of point scoring”. Naek paid tribute to Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, and mentioned his role in strengthening the country including the 1973 Constitution, the OIC conference, land reforms and setting up of the Pakistan Steel Mills.
“We are here because of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Benazir Bhutto and the PPP will continue in President Asif Ali Zardari’s leadership,” Naek said.
Also at the shrine was minister Makhdoom Shahabuddin, who reiterated support for the president.
As President Asif Ali Zardari and Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari visit the mausoleum, the supporters clamour to be let in, but the police officers have their orders. No one will be allowed to enter as the president visits. Some hurl expletives at the cops, others rail about how they are being treated.
This is unfamiliar behaviour for many PPP workers, used to several years of Benazir Bhutto taking an interest in their lives and what they were doing. One Larkana-based reporter recalls how Benazir once got off stage during a rally in the area to reprimand an officer for beating someone. “How can you do this, these people are here to be in the rally,” he recalls Benazir as saying.
None of the Bhuttos stay in Larkana to be with their workers. Ghinwa, Fatima and Zulfikar Jr are not regular visitors to Al Murtaza, the family home, and Naudero House is off-limits for most.
Yet, they are at the gates of the mausoleum, craning for an elusive glimpse.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 4th, 2012.