Bilawal Bhutto’s campaign for the 2018 elections has begun, it seemed, as he gave a morale-boosting speech to Pakistan Peoples Party supporters – and disparaged other parties. “In the next general elections, Asif Ali Zardari will be the supporters’ bow and I will be the arrow,” he claimed in his short but passionate speech, insinuating a future landslide victory.
Friday marked the first time a top party leader visited the Karsaz blasts site to mark the sixth anniversary of the carnage in which 177 people were killed and over 600 party supporters injured on October 18, 2007.
The twin blasts took place when the slain chairperson of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and former prime minister Benazir Bhutto was on her way to a public gathering at Mazar-e-Quaid when she returned to the country after eight years of self-exile.
The PPP was in power for five years but neither the party patron-in-chief, Bilawal, nor the co-chairperson, his father and former president Asif Ali Zardari, ever visited the blast site. The young chairperson’s visit was attended by a few hundred party workers amid tight security on Friday afternoon.
Bilawal started his speech with the Nara-e-Takbeer and chanted slogans, along with party supporters – just like his mother did.
But soon, his speech became more of a tirade – he rebuked all major political parties as well as mocked them. The theme of his harangue seemed to be the emblems of political parties. He used ‘heroic’ imagery of the bow and arrow for his party, but made derisive metaphors out of other party symbols.
Criticising the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz government, Bilawal said that his party will defeat the ‘lion’. “The belly of the lion is filled with the blood of poor people!”
On the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, he said, “We’ll cut the kite that is flown through the telephone,” he decried the party and its exiled leader Altaf Hussain. Pakistan achieved independence in 1947 but Karachi is still London’s colony, he added.
For the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, he mocked the party’s slogan of ‘PTI tsunami, terming it a storm. Criticising PTI’s provincial government in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, he alleged the PTI’s tsunami was causing the common people to drown in it. “We will liberate the people from that storm,” he pledged, adding that his party was not ‘cowardly’ like the PTI.
However, for his party workers, Bilawal was all praises. Lauding the sacrifices rendered by party workers, he said PPP’s supporters rushed to save their leader when the blasts occurred, unlike workers of other political parties who run away when catastrophe strikes.
He highlighted how PPP leader Zamrud Khan saved the day when gun-toting Muhammad Sikandar put the capital, Islamabad, to a grinding halt. When the federal government could not do anything, it was his party worker who “secured the whole city”, he said.
Bilawal also extolled the sacrifices of Punjab’s former governor Salman Taseer and slain federal minister for minorities Shahbaz Bhatti.
Bilawal laid a floral wreath at the Karsaz memorial and also offered Fateha for the victims.
Like father, like son
Former President Asif Ali Zardari also paid tribute to the victims of the Karsaz carnage and vowed that the party would carry the mission of democracy forward.
“We pay homage to those brave sons and daughters of the nation who laid down their lives and suffered grievously when the welcoming caravan of their leader Benazir Bhutto was brutally attacked by the enemies of democracy,” he said in his message issued on Friday.
He said he would like to caution democratic forces against the prevailing dictatorial mindset, which “refuses to bow before the Parliament”. “The days of direct assault on the Parliament are over, but we must be vigilant against the dictatorial mindset that seeks to ambush the Parliament through different ways.”
Published in The Express Tribune, October 19th, 2013.