Divided over leaders but united over love for the Bhuttos

Published: December 28, 2012
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Thousands of people gathered at Garhi Khuda Bux on Thursday to pay homage to Benazir Bhutto on her fifth death anniversary. PHOTO: APP

Thousands of people gathered at Garhi Khuda Bux on Thursday to pay homage to Benazir Bhutto on her fifth death anniversary. PHOTO: APP

GARHI KHUDA BAKHSH: 

At night, when floodlights mounted on high-rise towers illuminate the white marble domes of the Bhutto mausoleum in Garhi Khuda Bux, it becomes an alluring edifice from another world. But for the thousands who thronged the place on Thursday, the legacy of those laid to rest within it is much more spectacular.  

More people turned up to the mausoleum this year as compared to the last one, perhaps to be a part of the historic rites of passage marking Bilawal Bhutto Zardari’s foray into the political arena.

The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) leaders were expecting a large turnout for the rally, but the crowd failed to live up to the expectations. The policemen deployed at the Sukkur bypass felt that fewer vehicles were heading to Garhi Khuda Bux as compared to previous years.

It’s cold outside

Since accomodation was scarce, some of the party’s workers bore a cold winter night – where the mercury dipped below 13°C – out on the roads without so much as a blanket to protect them from the occasional chilly breeze. Achar from Thatta was one of the men for whom the pavement was a bed on Wednesday night. “I didn’t even get a wink of sleep because of the cold,” he told The Express Tribune. The charged atmosphere at the rally, however, gave him a buzz that no other stimulant could.

Others munched on gutka to keep themselves awake and alert in the stinging cold. Ibrahim, a young man from Karachi, had brought along 100 packets of the betel nut mixture for his three-day stay in Larkana. But he had exhausted his entire supply by the end of the first day. “It’s so cold out here!” he exclaimed.

When Bilawal

Earlier, Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah had announced that food and refreshments would be provided to all visitors, but a group from Shikarpur was slightly miffed that it didn’t get its share. “We come to Garhi Khuda Bux every year. We weren’t given enough food but we’re still happy and we’ll still chant ‘jeay bhutto’,” said one of them.

While the VIPs flew in on private jets, those with leaner wallets squabbled with one another to secure a spot in the tightly packed public transport vehicles. So powerful was the allure of the Bhuttos that the game of musical chairs took a violent turn in Thull. Fists flew, clothes were ripped and five men, including members of the party’s youth wing, were so bruised and battered after running the gauntlet that they had to be taken to the hospital.

Who are you here for?

Most visitors loitered about as other leaders from the PPP made their speeches, but when Bilawal took the stage and began to speak, a wave of jiyalas suddenly headed in his direction. As he spoke, some could barely contain their excitement and put their vocal cords to the ultimate test. “Wow! He is just like a copy of my leader Benazir! How can I not vote for him?” a frail old man, Piral, screamed at the top of his lungs.

When the last words left Bilawal’s mouth, so did the lion’s share of visitors from the Bhutto mausoleum. This was a little surprising, since most banners had the faces of not only Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Benazir and Bilawal, but President Zardari and his sister Faryal Talpur as well.

For other jiyalas, it was the memories of Benazir Bhutto that compelled them to make the trip to Garhi Khuda Bux, rather than their current faith in the party. “Bilawal is just a kid and he will speak the language of his party,” said Bakhto Bibi, who was in a van heading to Garhi Khuda Bux.

Among the passionate PPP jiyalas in the bus was a disgruntled looking man from Ghotki, Akram Pitafi, who said he was only going to Garhi Khuda Bux because “our sardar wants us to”. Most of the people on the bus claimed that they were making the trip for “free food and free accommodation”.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 28th, 2012.

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Reader Comments (6)

  • just_someone
    Dec 28, 2012 - 2:06AM

    a plate of biryani=vote
    this is the way to win an election in Pakistan.
    Personally, if I was a politician, I would just ensure that I corner the market for a main ingredient of biryani. Then I would have a monopoly on biryani and hence the election.
    Its amazing how 5 years of torture hasnt taught these people anything!

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  • Khalq e Khuda
    Dec 28, 2012 - 4:51AM

    Such is the bias in the reporter that in second para he tells us more people turned up this year while in third he tells how it was a lower turnout than previous years.

    The crowd was exactly as expected as it filled the entire area between the mausoleum and stage to the brim,

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  • rizwan
    Dec 28, 2012 - 5:10AM

    @just_someone:
    don’t forget qeema wala naan.

    Recommend

  • think
    Dec 28, 2012 - 8:46AM

    Well the lack of sleep does explain for the low energy of the crowd. Illiteracy is our biggest issue though. Everywhere in the civilized world votes are based on performance. Even India has gradually learnt this.

    What about the condition of the masses? What about their gas? What about their electricity? What about their security? What about their children’s future?
    What about their roti kapra aur makaan?!

    Recommend

  • Waseem
    Dec 28, 2012 - 8:15PM

    While the educated people of Pakistan refuse to believe in the democratic process: sooner or later they will realize its importance. PPP government’s performance will be judged in the next election and it will be ousted or reelected without a movement. Urban Pakistanis will come around and acknowledge the legacy of Baenzir just they have finally recognized the legacy of Bhutto after being hand in hand with Zia for so long. Either way Benazir lives on in our hearts and our minds we don’t need their pointless approvals.

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  • Dec 29, 2012 - 4:19AM

    Someone should throw light on this political phenomenon.

    What do “jayalas” expect from PPP leadership.Recommend

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