LAHORE: “He should have been standing at the entrance receiving the jiyalas (party loyalists) and listening to the voices coming from the core of their hearts,” remarked Sikandar Shah, an old guard of the PPP, disappointed at the distance maintained between party Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and activists even at a heavily guarded venue as Royal Palm Golf and Country Club.
“I’m here to see for myself how the son of my martyred leader mingles with the workers,” said 73-year-old Shah from Lahore Cantonment who claims to be associated with the party since 1967.
The audience, comprising newly appointed office-bearers of districts and tehsils in five central Punjab divisions, was assigned seats in the capacious lawn meant for golf, as Bilawal addressed them for about 20 minutes from the balcony of the club building.
PPP Central Information Secretary Chaudhry Manzoor was the stage secretary, while besides Bilawal only Qamar Zaman Kaira was given the opportunity to speak to the workers.
Slams PML-N claims of mistreatment by JIT, its attempts to confront institutions
The PPP chairman continued his criticism of the Sharifs’ alleged attempts at “initiating confrontation between constitutional institutions, abusing and threatening the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) and making it controversial for no reason”.
He also ridiculed the ruling family’s claims about having been held accountable many times in the past, saying that either the establishment came to their rescue or they “escaped” abroad after submitting “apologies” — a reference to an alleged Sharifs-Musharraf deal for the family’s exile in December 2000.
“If it’s not investigation into corruption and money laundering worth billions of rupees then what is it,” he asked referring to Shahbaz Sharif regretting earlier that Hussain Nawaz had been made to sit by the JIT like he was an accused in a corruption case worth billions of rupees.
Bilawal recalled how his mother had been made to meet her incarcerated husband during hot summer days along with her young children, and how his father Asif Ali Zardari was tortured during investigations, while even the Sharifs’ fingers had not been twisted.
He doubted that the JIT comprising officers of BPS-19 could independently investigate the prime minister. He further said the PPP would side with state institutions if the Sharifs tried to browbeat them and that the party would not allow the system to be derailed just to protect the government.
He also counted alleged failures of the government on various internal and external fronts and alleged that attempts were being made to break the PPP into pieces as had happened in the past by the establishment and Nawaz Sharif. But, he said, being an ideological party, the PPP could not be eliminated.
The PPP chairman asked the workers to increase contacts with people and prepare themselves for elections as he too would visit each divisional headquarters in Punjab after Eidul Fitr as part of the mass contact drive.
Regarding this, Mr Shah commented that “Bilawal has the current to lead the masses like his mother and grandfather, provided he is given a chance to mix with workers”.
He believed that jiyalas could be upset with the party leadership but only for a short time as “they cannot remain aloof from the PPP for too long”.