Bilawal visit to Benazir memorial cancelled

Source: Published in Current Affairs on Monday, May 30, 2016

RAWALPINDI: To the disappointment of party workers and supporters, PPP Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto Zardari’s expected visit to former prime minister Benazir Bhutto’s memorial in Liaquat Bagh on May 30 has been cancelled.

On May 25, local PPP leaders had announced that the party chairperson would visit the garrison city, and had planned to welcome Bilawal to Liaquat Bagh – where his mother was assassinated on Dec 27, 2007 – for the first time.

But a few days later, local leaders informed old party workers that Bilawal would not stay in Rawalpindi on his way to Mirpur, Azad Kashmir, on May 30, and said they should arrange rallies to accompany him to Mirpur.

A senior party leader told Dawn that a plan had been set for the party chairperson’s visit, but a few hours later the plan changed after seeing “grouping” among party leaders, which could have caused the party embarrassment.

“After the plan, the party called a meeting at Zardari House on May 25 under the leadership of Jehangir Badar to make arrangements for the visit, but a brawl took place between local leaders of the twin cities.

Raja Khalid, former PPP Rawalpindi chapter general secretary, misbehaved with Shahid Papu, the elected chairman from the city union council,” he said.

He said the party then asked senior party leaders from the area, but they were not in favour of Bilawal visiting Rawalpindi, and the party instead decided to give local leaders time to end their differences so they could work together to give the chairperson a warm welcome.

He said the decision was announced earlier by local leaders close to Faryal Talpur, who then allowed them to announce.

“After this, local leaders Babar Jadoon and Raja Shahid Papu’s group announced the decision without taking former office-bearers on board,” he said.

He said the party is operating without local chapters, which has created confusion among party workers about whom they should rely on. He said party workers do not understand the party’s hierarchy following Benazir’s death.

Azhar Khan, an old party worker, said confusion was rampant because one group had announced the party chairperson’s visit, and a day later, they announced that the visit was cancelled.

“For the last eight years the party is being run by those who are not popular among the workers. The party leadership should step in to meet party workers at their own places, instead of calling selective individuals to Zardari House,” he said.

Another party worker, Zafarullah, said the present provincial and local level leadership did not recognise old party workers. When contacted, former PPP Rawalpindi chapter president Amir Fida Paracha said a plan for Bilawal’s visit had been proposed but some individuals had announced it prematurely.

“During the party’s meeting in Islamabad, senior leaders were of the view that the visit to Rawalpindi [should be arranged] after the AJK visit, as the weather will keep people from gathering in large numbers,” he said.

But he added that the party has been asked to bring a rally of workers to Mirpur and they would join the chairperson in Rawat on May 30. He said all the supporters and workers would gather at Liaquat Bagh before going to T-Chowk in Rawat.

Babar Jadoon, however, told Dawn that the chairperson’s visit was cancelled for security reasons.

“The party’s security advisory committee did not recommend that the party chairman visit the garrison city while going to Mirpur,” he said. 

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