GARHI KHUDA BAKHSH: Following a measured speech by the Chairman of the Pakistan Peoples Party, Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari at the Central Executive Council meeting, President Asif Ali Zardari reserved his speech for the massive crowd gathered outside the Garhi Khuda Bukhsh Bhutto mausoleum.
The theme for the evening seemed to have been carefully planned. From the articulate speech of Bilawal taking a direct jabs at the Supreme Court, to the Bhutto-slogan punctuated speech of Zardari having pockets of references to the rumoured machinations against Pakistan’s arguably largest political party.
The last time I was before you, I had hoped that the Supreme Court would have removed the stain of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto’s murder, but I regret to inform you that they are more interested in taking notice of the 40 megawatt plant installed in Garhi Khuda Bux which provides electricity to the people.”
The President continued with the theme, pointing towards the Asghar Khan case recently taken up by the Supreme Court. “It took them 20 years to hear the case. But for rental power plants you take less than three months to decide the case. They do not feel the pain of the masses,” he complained.
Touching on the conspiracies hatched against his government, Zardari reminded the gathering, and perhaps the nation that, “I want to tell you that in the past four years they have tried all sorts of tricks aginst me, but the people are with me. I have an answer to their every allegation, I have a counter to their every move.”
Reiterating that the people should not pay heed to the biased media he said “do not believe the newspaper reports. Do not get perturbed at what you hear on the television.”
Reaffirming his faith in the public as the ultimate source of power, he said “Pakistan is in the hands of the public, and the public is never wrong. History is testament to this, before tellingly adding “what the public decides is accepted by history, not the decision of an individual or a judge.”
“I say Bhutto is alive even today, but where are those who killed him? They are all in hiding,” the President taunted.
Talking about the rising nationalist voices from different corners of Pakistan, Zardari said, “many people want us to fight the Urdu speaking people in Sindh, some want us to keep fighting in Punjab, some in Balochistan, some want us to fight the Hazaras. But they understand not. We do not want to fight with anyone. We have decided that we will not fight any ethnic groups. If we fight, we fight against poverty, against our collective future problems, it is a fight for our land, if someone tries to steal this land away from us, we will fight them.”
Breaking from political rebuttals, and jumping on the re-election wagon, Zardari said that the Benazir Income Support Programme was not the only mass programme planned to be undertaken, “there isn’t just the BISP, we have many other programs for you as well. The elections we are going to have will be free and fair, the NIC will have a number on it so that there can be no double or triple voting.
“They are not after Yousaf Raza Gilani because he is loyal to me, he is loyal to the constitution” declared the President, before hinting towards the cold war between the main Opposition in the Parliament and the ruling government. “They are after him because he has called for south of Punjab to be removed from the ‘takht-e-Lahore’.”
We will not present our President before a Swiss magistrate
Prior to the president taking up space behind the bullet proof glass, Senator Aitzaz Ahsan took to the stage. Following from Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari’s defiant speech at the PPP Central Executive Committee meeting, Ahsan continued the theme, whether the president had immunity and on the contempt of court case against Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani.
“We will not present our President to a Swiss magistrate. Other countries even take away their Raymond Davis,” he said in a veiled taunt to the Supreme Court.
Ahsan blamed the media for misreporting his defence of Prime Minister Gilani during the contempt of court case in the Supreme Court. “Do not distort the sentences. I said that there is a case running in Switzerland in front of a magistrate, based on the same documents. The magistrate has not even summoned President Zardari.” He appealed to some sections of the media to stop misreporting his statements and present the facts as they are, but ended up telling the crowd that they “cannot be trusted”.
He said that on his recent trip to Delhi, there was “great interest” in the case against the prime minister. “I say there is no harm in writing the letter (to Switzerland), but not writing it is not a crime.”
Ahsan also had some chosen jibes. “This is not Lahore’s jalsa… This is Garhi Khuda Bukhsh,” met with a rapturous response from the audience.
Paying tribute to Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, he said “we have come here and leave with a new spirit, a new thinking and a new vision that then spreads throughout the country.”He invoked the spirit of the martyred Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and Benazir Bhutto, and said they were watching over the crowd.
Other speakers included Jahangir Badar, Sindh Assembly Speaker Nisar Khuhro and PPP Punjab President Imtiaz Safdar Warraich and PPP Sindh President and Sindh Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah.