SUKKUR/ GARHI KHUDA BUX:
Vast crowds gathered on Thursday to mark the fifth anniversary of the assassination of former premier Benazir Bhutto, and to witness her son launch his own political career.
On the occasion, Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf told followers waving the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP)’s green, black and red flag that the Oxford-educated Bilawal Bhutto “will prove to be an important turning point for democracy and politics”.
Ashraf said the country should “shun prejudices and maintain unity” to pay homage to Benazir.
“Let us resolve to defeat the forces of extremism and terrorism and work for the progress and prosperity of the country,” he said.
Meanwhile, former premier Yousaf Raza Gilani said the dreams of those who wish to see PPP entangled in conspiracies will not come true, adding that Benazir’s philosophy and her vision would forever guide the nation.
Security was tight around a huge stage, adorned with the red, black and green tricolour of the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), where Bilawal spoke.
Surveillance helicopters hovered overhead as police commandos stood alert and sniffer dogs searched for explosives. Police said more than 15,000 officers had been deployed.
Jiyalas demand Benazir’s murderers
More than 200,000 people gathered at the family mausoleum in Garhi Khuda Bux to pay their respects and to hear Bilawal make his first major public speech.
Party workers attending the event expressed frustration over the progress made to bring Benazir’s murderers to justice
One woman said that even though her husband’s shops were gutted in the wake of Benazir’s murder, it was still nothing in comparison to the shock of her assassination.
“Chiragh tale andhera (Darkness amid the light),” said Mai Rehmat of Multan, adding that it was astonishing that Benazir’s murderers were still walking freely despite PPP being in power.
Another party worker said he had travelled from Multan to pay homage to the “Shaheed Rani”.
“Shaheed Bibi was loved immensely because she maintained direct contact with the workers,” said party worker Mohammad Kamil
A young man, Ilyas Malik, from Ghotki turned teary-eyed while talking about the public gathering in Garhi Khuda Bux.
“Why are they (PPP leaders) comparing PML-F’s rally with today’s rally,” he asked, adding that today (Thursday) was specifically about Benazir and not electioneering. “Today, we are only going to Garhi Khuda Bux to pay homage to Shaheed Rani”.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 28th, 2012.
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