KARACHI: With its leadership caught up in a plethora of corruption and money-laundering cases, the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) is all set to show its political prowess today [Thursday] on the occasion of the death anniversary of the party's founder, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto (ZAB).
All arrangements have been finalised for a grand event to observe the 40th death anniversary of ZAB, where the acts and deeds of the federal government and the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) is likely to come under fire.
The annual gathering at Garhi Khuda Bux, the ancestral village of the Bhuttos, will be addressed by the party chairperson Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari and other senior leaders from Sindh, Punjab and other provinces. The event is scheduled to commence at 3pm.
In the days leading up to the event, there were rumours that the PPP may announce a protest movement or long march against the federal government, but sources in the party denied such reports. "There is no plan for such a movement. Party leaders in Sindh and Punjab are divided on the notion of launching an agitation movement at this point," said a senior party leader, who requested anonymity. "Let's see what happens with Zardari and his sister in the money laundering cases. We are waiting for it."
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari led a 'train caravan' from Karachi to Garhi Khuda Bux, stopping at almost 26 railway stations along the way, where he addressed party workers. His opponents termed it a march against the government, but PPP leaders and the party chairperson were of the opinion that the caravan aimed to raise awareness about the PTI's bad governance and invite people to attend the gathering to mark ZAB's death anniversary.
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"It will be a historic gathering today because Bilawal has personally invited people to partake in the event," said PPP Sindh Information secretary Aajiz Dhamrah.
PPP leaders, who spoke to The Express Tribune, claimed that over a 100,000 people would participate in the gathering in the scorching weather of Larkana, where the mercury is likely to climb to 41o Celsius today. The estimate was, however, refuted by independent sources, who reasoned that the majority of people who had so far reached Larkana, belonged to Sindh. "There is slim chance of a significant crowd coming in from Punjab, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan as was the case in the time of Benazir Bhutto," said journalist Sheraz Pathan, who has been covering the event for the past decade at least. "People from Sindh are likely to dominate the show, as has been the case for the last few years."
The district administration, along with the party's volunteers, has setup medical and welcome camps at a number of sites in Garhi Khuda Bux, Naudero, where around 6,500 police and Rangers personnel will be deployed to deal with any untoward incident.
Tribute to Bhutto
Meanwhile, former President of Pakistan and PPP co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari paid tribute to ZAB's struggle against exploitative forces and pledged that the struggle would live on.
He was speaking on the eve of ZAB's death anniversary. "Quaid-e-Awam [ZAB] had defeated exploitative forces by making the downtrodden masses aware of their rights and giving them a voice so that they can walk with pride," said Zardari. "These forces targeted not only the Party leadership but also the people of Pakistan."
The former President said that ZAB had strengthened the sovereignty of the country but a bunch of power-hungry individuals had made it hostage to their greed. He added that when the Parliament is kept in the dark regarding national issues, it is clear that everything is being done wrong.
"Quaid-e-Awam taught us not to bow down in the face of oppression and no power in the world can stop us from speaking the truth," he said. "The PPP will continue to follow the footsteps of its founding leader and fight ignorance, poverty, exploitation and terrorism and we will not hesitate to sacrifice our lives for this cause," he added.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 4th, 2019.