In a surprise move,the top leaders of Pakistan People’s Party held a closed door meeting at the party’s headquarters in Sindh province after midnight in the wake of Taliban threat to its leadership.The PPP,which governed Pakistan for the last five years,had earlier cancelled a public rally at Naudero,Gardhi Khuda Baksh,where it was supposed to start its elections campaign on the death anniversary of its founder Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.
But late last night President Asif Ali Zardari and his son Bilawal Bhutto,the Chairman of the PPP,addressed the gathering which started with a two minutes silence observed for Zulfikar Ali Bhutto who was hanged 34 years ago by military dictator Zia-ul Haq after being toppled by the army.
Only the state-owned PTV was allowed to cover the meeting live as all other media channels were barred from coverage. The top PPP leadership was present at the meeting where Zardari said his party had strengthened democracy in Pakistan.
“Despite many problems,hurdles and criticism we have kept democracy alive and for the first time a peaceful civilian transfer of power will take place after elections,” President Zardari said,adding that in coming days democracy would be further strengthened in the country.
“I am proud to say there was not a single political prisoner in the jails in our tenure,” he said. Zardari while admitting that there were some mistakes made by the PPP-led coalition government in the last five years said still the party had taken steps that would benefit the future generations of Pakistan.
Bilawal,who returned home from Dubai a day earlier after speculations in the media about him leaving Karachi after a tiff with his father over party matters,also addressed the gathering describing his grandfather as a visionary leader. He said the party’s manifesto in the coming elections remained the slogan raised by Z.A Bhutto,”Roti,Kapra aur Makan” (food,clothes and house).
Bilawal urged people to vote for the PPP candidates to keep alive the spirit of the Bhutto family. The closed door meeting apparently was the result of threats from the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan which has threatened to hit the PPP and its coalition partners in the run-up to the May 11 polls. Senior party officials have said that in the wake of security threats it was decided to hold smaller meetings and rallies in different districts.
Interestingly,the President made no reference to the terrorism in the country nor about the threats made to target politicians in the run-up to the elections. Zardari in the latter part of his speech addressed the participants in his native Sindhi language urging them to pay tributes to late Z.A Bhutto and Benazir Bhutto.
Benazir Bhutto was killed in a gun and suicide attack during an election rally in Rawalpindi in 2007. “Z.A Bhutto and my mother Benazir Bhutto made Pakistan a powerful nuclear power and brought in modern technology to boost the country’s defence,” Bilawal said. Senior PPP leader Qamar Zaman Kaira had last week said that Bilawal,24,who is too young to contest a seat,would make few public appearances “due to security concerns”.
This year’s rallies and arrangements in Naudero to mark the death anniversary of Z.A Bhutto are very low key in comparison to previous years when massive public rallies were organized to mark the occasion. The PPP is also yet to announce its candidates for the elections and hold major political election rallies.