LARKANA/NAUDERO: Beating their chests and crying profusely, the Pakistan Peoples Party supporters showered flowers and prayers on Benazir Bhutto’s grave on Monday but because of tight security were disappinted that the main speech took place at Naudero House.
Security arrangements were strict and visitors were frisked while coming in and going out of the mausoleum. Walk-through scanners were also installed and because of fears of possible attacks at the rally, the main ceremony was held at Naudero House instead of Garhi Khuda Bux. As a result, several PPP followers who had come in from far-flung areas were unable to attend the event. They visited the Bhutto family’s graves and went back to their hometowns.
PPP loyalists claimed that only a ‘select few’ were allowed to take part in that ceremony while most of them had to go back from Garhi Khuda Bakhsh. “We could have just said the Fateha back at home,” said Muhammad Junaid, who had come all the way from Faisalabad to pay his respects. He was disappointed over not being allowed to go to Naudero House. “We’ve come from so far,” he added sadly.
The supporters said they missed the days when the ceremony used to be held at the mausoleum. “We used to come here to listen to our leaders and to share our sorrows. But now we just come here, say salam and go back,” they said. The rally should be held here. “Why is there a 100,000 square-foot jalsahgah and a 35,000 square-foot stage here?” asked workers.
Meanwhile, arrangements this year too seem to have fallen short. A Quran khwani was held at the shrine around 9 am. According to workers, none of the parliamentarians and PPP leaders took part in this ceremony. Reading of the Quran was halted when the crowd increased.
Some of the visitors also stood on top of the graves and shouted slogans, transgressing respect and love. People arrived in big and small groups and the stream of followers continued in and out of the building the entire day. Garhi Khuda Bux and Naudero House were both draped in red, black and green banners, flags and photographs. The only stalls at the mausoleum were medical camps and reception stalls. Food, drink, flower and photograph stalls were not allowed this year. People had to park their cars around a kilometre away. Only VIP vehicles were allowed to come closer.
Cold weather fails to dampen guard’s spirits
Kazim Hussain Jagirani, a police constable, is very punctual about his duty but when Benazir Bhutto’s death anniversary draws close, he becomes extra vigilant. Even the cold weather has not managed to dampen his resolve.
“I feel happy serving my country and its people. I will deal with any one who comes to destroy the country,” he said, during his two-day-long shift.
There were 6,000 policemen and over 500 Rangers personnel deployed in the district but not all of them shared Jagirani’s passion. “It’s very cold and they have not arranged for our accommodation,” complained Manzoor Ahmed, a policeman deployed at the gate. “There are no tents for us even though we travelled long distances to get here,” he said.
Naudero House, Bhutto’s residence where the ceremony was held, was surrounded by the police and Rangers. Cars were being let in only after thorough scanning and one of the roads leading to the house was completely blocked for traffic.
The party workers made arrangements for 8,000 people and PPP office-bearers came to attend the ceremony from across the country. The media was, however, not allowed to enter the house and were forced to stand outside the outermost wall. The main presidential address started at 4 pm and finished around 6 pm, an hour after which all media vans and reporters left the area.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 29th, 2010.
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