The security at Garhi Khuda Bux on the death anniversary of Benazir Bhutto is increasing every year but the crowd, it appears, is gradually thinning - as noted from the low attendance of jiyalas from Punjab and other provinces at the mausoleum on Friday.
"People from all the provinces used to gather at Garhi Khuda Bux on the death anniversaries of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and BB. This year, however, the people gathered for the occasion are mostly from Sindh and those from other provinces are very few in number," said Pakistan Peoples Party's leader Safdar Abbasi. "Mohtarma was the binding force among the four provinces and after her death, the force has weakened and caused an extensive damage to the party."
Speaking about the reasons for low turnout, Abbasi said that the main reason was the unsolved case of the late leader's murder. "Six years have gone by but still the murderers have not been brought to justice, causing some workers across the country to become disgruntled with the party," he said, while pointing out that PPP has bagged only few councillor seats in the local bodies election and not a single one from Quetta.
Referring to the central executive committee, provincial councils and others committees, he said that earlier every member was heard patiently. "But after BB's death, these councils and committees have become redundant, which indicate an organisational collapse of the party in Sindh," he said. "PPP used to be a symbol of federation but due to wrong policies, it wasn't able to perform in the May 11 elections, except for in Sindh."
Ahmed Bozdar, who belongs to Ghotki district, agreed that participation of people from other provinces was less than last year.
However, Huzoor Bux from Sibi, Balochistan, who visits Garhi Khuda Bux every year for the death anniversaries of the two Bhuttos, does not feel that the people have lessened in number. In fact, he thinks they are increasing. "Look around [the jalsa]. You will find this ground filled with people. There is hardly any space. Majority of the people belong to Sindh but PPP's workers from other provinces also come with high sprits."
According to Mukhtiar Ahmed Samon of Mirpurkhas, it is the love for "Bhuttoism" which compels people to visit the graves of the martyrs.
In the previous years, former President Asif Ali Zardari used to land at Sukkur airport in his official place and then take a helicopter directly to the Naudero House, which was being used a president camp office. This year however, Zardari, accompanied by his son Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and daughters Bakhtawar Bhutto Zardari and Asifa Bhutto Zardari, flew to the Mohenjo Daro airport.
From there, the family drove in a motorcade amid tight security to the Naudero House. Under the supervision of the Sindh Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah, who was in charge of security, four DIGs and SSPs from 19 districts, besides thousands of other law enforcers were deployed in Garhi Khuda Bux and Naudero.
Only three gates of the mausoleum were open and the remaining ones were sealed by parking containers. One gate was meant for the VVIPS, one for men and one for women. Besides passing through the security gates, the visitors were allowed inside the premises only after a body search. The media, which at first was kept at a distance from the mausoleum, was later allowed inside when party leaders started with their speeches.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 28th, 2013.