Bilawal Addresses PPP Liaquat Bagh Rally: ‘2020 Year of Free and Fair Elections’

DESPARDES — Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari on Friday warned Imran Khan’s government that 2020 would be the year of free and fair elections.

The 32-year-old lawmaker called out for support in ousting Khan’s government, calling it a menace for the masses. “This government of selected and political orphans as the people’s rule cannot be established without the PPP”.

Addressing a rally held by the party at Liaquat Bagh to mark the 12th death anniversary of former premier Benazir Bhutto, the scion of Bhutto dynasty said he would give people their due rights after ousting the government of “political orphans”.

He blamed “political orphans” for the economic and leadership crisis prevalent in the country. “These are the same political orphans Benazir warned you about,” Bilawal said.

The rally was attended by PPP stalwarts, including Raza Rabbani, Qamar Zaman Kaira, Faryal Talpur, Aitzaz Ahsan. Co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari also addressed the ceremony via a prerecorded video message. “This is the place where Benazir Bhutto lost her life,” he said to a charged crowd.

The Bhuttoist party which enjoyed tailwinds in the 70s and 80s seeks to regain lost grounds in Punjab — country’s hinterland and its largest province.

“PPP thought leaders think Khan’s team may be losing steam and could possibly fill the space,” an observer says.

“(But) the youth — Pakistan has a youth bulge — still look toward Khan as a bridge toward socio-economic changes they want in years ahead,” the observer added.

According to UNDP Report 2017, almost 64 percent of the country’s 207m population comprise of young men and women — those who are under the age 30, and considered a demographic dividend.

Bilawal himself belongs to the bulge, and have been attempting to connect with the young while invoking past legacies of his slain mother Benazir and grandfather Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.

Led by Prime Minister Imran Khan, the government in Islamabad has been facing headwinds due to regional geopolitics — particularly in Kashmir and India, and a slowing economy.

“This land is again calling that it is under threat once again… today, parliament is locked, and 18th amendment is under attack, with provinces being deprived of their rights,” Bilawal told the gathering of young and old.

The local chapter of the country’s largest left-of-the-center party with strong base in rural areas of Sindh province had made arrangements for some 20,000 chairs for people coming to attend the mass gathering.

Scores of convoys of Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) workers and supporters from across the country had earlier arrived in the garrison city for the rally.

Rawalpindi PPP President Babar Jadoon told media earlier the PPP chairman would be received by the police at Faizabad from where he would be brought to Liaquat Bagh under box security in his bulletproof vehicle. The same route and security pattern would be followed on his return and he would not come out of his car at any point, he added.

Party officials from Sindh, Punjab, Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) have been arriving in the garrison city using aerial or land routes.

Hotels booked for the PPP guests from other cities ran out of space. Many guests are staying at the Peoples Secretariat and some stalwarts have provided space at their houses and farms nearby, according to The Express Tribune.

According to Rawalpindi police, at least 1,000 policemen have been deployed for the security of the rally. Personnel of the Special Branch and Bomb Disposal Squad made rounds of the rally ground to make final check with the help of sniffer dogs to detect any bomb or explosive material.

Bilawal was brought to the stage surrounded by elite police commandos who took position behind him on the stage. Only people mentioned in a list shared with police sat with the PPP Chairman.

Moreover, sharpshooters were in positions on buildings around Liaquat Bagh to keep watch on miscreants.