The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) is expecting a big crowd. They have made seating arrangements for nearly 150,000 people at Bagh-e-Jinnah, a public park adjacent to the Quaid’s mausoleum where the party’s chairperson, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, is set to address a rally and launch his political career on October 18.
On Saturday, according to party leaders, around 22,000 vehicles full of people from rural Sindh will enter Karachi to hear their chairperson. The PPP has also arranged for four special trains from Sukkur, Lahore, Multan and Peshawar to get people to Chanesar Halt in PECHS from where they will proceed towards the mazaar to attend the jalsa.
There will be two main entrances to the rally – ordinary citizens will enter the jalsa from the Sea Breeze side while the VVIPs will be able to enter through the mazaar’s VVIP gate adjacent to the chowrangi.
PPP leaders, including Sindh Information Minister Sharjeel Inam Memon, Waqar Mehdi and Najmi Alam, reviewed the arrangements and held a press conference after visiting the venue.
According to Memon, Bilawal will talk about the carnage that took place on Karsaz on October 18, 2007, when Benazir Bhutto returned to Pakistan after spending eight years in self exile. More than 139 people were killed while nearly 450 were injured in the attack.
The information minister added that by holding the public meeting at the Quaid’s mausoleum, the chairperson was making a symbolic commitment to the Father of the Nation of getting rid of the militants and rebuilding the nation as the Quaid had envisioned.
While talking about the security arrangements, Memon said that fool-proof arrangements had been made but some people were spreading baseless rumours about threats.
He claimed that reports of the party using government machinery for the rally were untrue. He said that people were coming to the rally because of their affiliation with the party and for no other reasons. “It is not our [PPP] culture to direct patwaris and government officials to bring people by force to such kind of events,” he said.
Traffic and secuirty
The police have verbally instructed roadside cart-venders and shopkeepers near the Quaid’s mazaar to not be open for businesses from Friday evening as part of their security and traffic arrangements for the PPP rally on Saturday.
Automobile shop owners on the New MA Jinnah Road told The Express Tribune that police officials of the area told them not to open their showrooms or tyre shops on Friday and Saturday. “The traffic police’s check post in charge came to my shop and told me to keep my shop closed on Friday evening and Saturday,” said 27-year-old Nahyaan, owner of Pak Tyre World near the People Secretariat Chowrangi on New MA Jinnah Road.
Abdul Wahid, who sells burgers and juice on the road, hopes that he will be allowed to work on the day of the rally. “The traffic police told me to keep my business closed from Friday evening but it would be good for the participants if I was working on the day because they can buy food or drinks when they get hungry.”
The Sindh home secretary, Dr Niaz Ali Abbasi, has directed the city’s main hospitals to remain on high alert on October 18. Dr Abbasi also issued instructions to IGP Sindh and Karachi Commissioner to ensure that the rally is carried out peacefully according to the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs).
Published in The Express Tribune, October 16th, 2014.