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Have never seen anyone as brave as Benazir, says Zardari

GARHI KHUDA BUX: Pakistan Peoples Party Parliamentarians and former President Asif Ali Zardari is addressing a rally in Gari Khuda Baksh on the tenth death anniversary of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.

“Have never seen anyone as brave as Benazir,” said Zardari.

The former President of the Party said conspiracies are still being hatched against the party.

“There was a conspiracy against Benazir and the PPP. The conspiracy is still in play and we are still seeing its results today.”

Criticising political leaders, Zardari said some of these leaders are the result of benefits gained from returning officers.

Bilawal pictured with sisters Bakhtawar and Aseefa – Geo News screengrab 

In an apparent reference to the PML-N, Zardari said just like they have issues with the PPP, they too have issues with the PML-N.

“Just like you have issues with us, we have issues with you as well. You have always backstabbed us. This time we will not support you.”

Zardari also rejected talk of any NRO in the future and said the party will not accept another compromise.

“We spend 12 years in jail while you spend a few months and then get to sign an NRO and attain your freedom. That will not happen again. We reject and NRO in the future,” said the former president.

Zardari said he will be cautious in running the party and will always use politics for the betterment of the people.

“I consider every worker my child. Benazir did the same and used to cry for her workers whenever she recieved news of their death,” said the PPP co-chairman.

Concluding his address, the former president reiterated that the real leader is Bilawal Bhutto.

“The real leader, the leader of the nation is Bilawal.”

10th death anniversary of Benazir Bhutto

To observe the 10th death anniversary of slain Pakistan Peoples Party Leader Benazir Bhutto, the party is holding a rally at Garhi Khuda Bux on Wednesday.

The rally is expected to be attended by more than a million party supporters and workers.

The preparations for the rally have been completed and supporters have started coming to the rally site.

The function will start with Bilawal addressing public meeting which will be attended by Zardari, among other party leaders such as Yousuf Raza Gilani, Nasir Ahmed Khuhro and Murad Ali Shah.

A documentary, depicting life and achievements of Shaheed Benazir Bhutto will also be shown at the occasion.

Separate camps have been set-up to accommodate the leaders and workers from all the four provinces, Gilgit-Baltistan, Northern Areas and Azad Kashmir.

mushaira (poetry recital) has also been scheduled in front of the mausoleum of Benazir Bhutto Wednesday afternoon.

Meanwhile, Deputy Commissioner Larkana Kashif Ali Tipu and SSP Larkana Tanvir Hussain Tunio informed that more than 7,000 police personnel, including women police, traffic police, special police commandos of Sindh Police and three hundred personnel of Shahbaz Rangers, have been deployed to ensure the law and order on the occasion.

The SSP Larkana said that senior rank officers will supervise and monitor the activities in Garhi Khuda Bux and Naudero. Moreover, bomb detectors, scanning machines, jammers, sniffer dogs, watchtowers, 60 walk-through gates have been set up for security purposes.

DC Larkana said various medical and other welcome camps have established with 60 fire brigades deployed at the various locations.

Bilawal pays tribute to Benazir Bhutto

In a special message on his mother’s death anniversary, Bilawal said that those who killed Benazir Bhutto had actually planned to kill the whole nation, but former president Asif Ali Zardari saved the country by raising “Pakistan Khappay” slogan after her assassination in Rawalpindi.

He said that Benazir Bhutto lost her father, brothers and even mother fighting for the rights of masses and against the dictatorial vultures hovering over the country.

In her valiant battle against the forces of darkness and elements of dictatorships, she eventually embraced martyrdom in line with the legacy of her father Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, he said.

Sindh Chief Minister pays homage to Bhutto family

Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah visited the Mausoleum of Bhutto family in Garhi Khuda Bux Tuesday evening. Photo: APP

Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah visited the Mausoleum of Bhutto family in Garhi Khuda Bux Tuesday evening.

Shah laid floral wreaths at the graves of Benazir, founder of PPP Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.

Sindh Chief Minister also visited the graves of late Mir Murtaza Bhutto and Late Mir Shahnawaz Bhutto and offered fateha.

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The most tragic death

TEN years down the road, the wound inflicted by the assassination of Benazir Bhutto is yet to be healed. Her death left a gap in Pakistan’s politics that is hard to fill. Her last words at the rally minutes before still resonate: “The country is in danger. We have to save it with the power of the people,” she exhorted her supporters. But the assassin reached her before Ms Bhutto could lead that battle to its end.

Twice prime minister, Ms Bhutto may not have been unimpeachable, but what distinguished her from other Pakistani politicians was her courage of conviction. Even her most bitter political opponents admire her for her determination, and her defiance of the religious extremism and militancy that ultimately cost Ms Bhutto her life.

She was the most high-profile victim of terrorism and the violent extremism that remains an existential threat to the country. Ms Bhutto had evoked the wrath of the extremists by pledging to fight fanaticism and militancy. There has been little doubt about who killed Ms Bhutto, though justice was never done. More than anyone else, her political heirs were responsible for not pursuing the investigation into her murder seriously.

Benazir Bhutto’s loss was more than that of a political leader.

The controversy over who killed her has also exposed the chasm and mistrust between the state and its people for the authorities’ failure to prevent the tragedy. The lacklustre manner in which her murder trial has been conducted and the prime suspects freed reflects on the flawed system of justice and process of investigation in this country.

Ms Bhutto’s loss was more than that of a political leader; she had come to symbolise unity for an uneasy federation. Her party’s appeal cut across province and ethnicity. The decline of the PPP after her assassination has dealt a massive blow to liberal politics in this country. That vacuum has yielded the entire political space to right-wing parties and religiously inspired extremists.

It is indeed a great tragedy that the once most formidable national political force has been reduced to virtually a regional party. The progressive ethos of the party is fast diminishing. Even worse is the danger of its becoming a party of shrine keepers selling her martyrdom. Her death anniversary is becoming more and more ritualised and is used as a means to fortify hereditary politics. It has little to do with what the party essentially stood for.

It is encouraging to see Bilawal Bhutto trying to invoke some of the party’s old values regarding social justice and reviving his mother’s pledge of fighting against religious extremism. But with his father’s stranglehold, there is little hope of the party changing tack. Moreover, it needs a whole new thinking and understanding of the changing domestic and international dynamics to reinvigorate the party and help it regain its lost mass base.

There is a lesson to learn from Ms Bhutto’s political struggle and pragmatism that provided a new direction to the party. Undoubtedly, her rise to leadership initially owed to her being the daughter of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, but it was her own struggle that made her a leader in her own right. No other Pakistani leader has gone through such trial and tribulation as she did.

As a young girl with no experience of politics, she fought against the most retrogressive and tyrannical military dictatorship that had executed her father and the country’s first elected leader. She suffered the worst kind of imprisonment but never gave up.

Not only did she spend years in detention and exile, she also encountered struggle within the party — which shaped her politics. It would not have been possible for Ms Bhutto to take command of the party without getting rid of the ‘uncles’. It was not easy for a young woman totally new to the ruthless game of power politics to win that battle. She was not willing to live under the shadow of the old guard who worked with her father.

While she took forward the legacy of her father, she also put her own imprint on party policy. She broke away from her father’s policy of bureaucratic socialism and his anti-American stance. Her politics, too, was different from her father’s more authoritarian approach. Ms Bhutto strongly believed in democratic values and upheld them even against the many odds she faced.

Although Ms Bhutto may not be remembered for governance in her two terms in office, she is rightly credited for granting complete freedom of expression. No other Pakistani political leader has shown such a degree of democratic tolerance as Ms Bhutto did. It was a marked departure from her father’s way of politics.

It is true that she had never been allowed free space by the security establishment, and both her terms in office were cut short by establishment-backed constitutional coups; her own inexperience and the corruption charges against her had also been factors in her governments’ downfall. She, too, had weaknesses that proved disastrous. Her conflict with the then chief justice and bad governance brought down her second administration.

But to her credit, she never bowed down. Gen Musharraf’s regime tried to keep her out of politics. Yet not only did the party survive, it also remained a powerful political force with a support base across the country.

The Charter of Democracy, 2006, was certainly a positive move, but she did not live to see it being implemented. It was a good document and its implementation could have helped create favourable conditions for the establishment of institutional democracy in the country. But neither of the two parties — the PML-N or the PPP — has the will or desire to implement them. As a result, democracy has failed to deliver good governance and rule of law.

Ms Bhutto had returned to the country in 2007 with much greater confidence. She was clear about her objectives and the major problems confronting the nation. But the terrorist got her before she could lead her party to another electoral victory. It was the tragic end of one of the most courageous leaders this country has ever produced.

The writer is an author and journalist.
zhussain100@yahoo.com
Twitter: @hidhussain

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CEC of PPP concerned over reports of mainstreaming terror organizations

Naudero December 26, 2017: The Pakistan People’s Party today demanded timely elections on the basis of new delimitations, placing before the Parliament the Bill for extending jurisdiction of Peshawar High Court to FATA and other reforms in tribal areas leading to merger in KPK and the setting up of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission as envisaged in the Charter of Democracy to correct distortions in history and contain political polarization.

The demands were contained in the resolutions adopted during a combined meeting of the Central Executive Committees of the PPP and PPPP presided over jointly by Asif Ali Zrdari and Bilawal Bhutto Zardari in Naudero Hose on the eve of the tenth death anniversary of Shaheed Benazir Bhutto.

“The Party wishes to make it clear that it will not permit any disruption in the continuity of democratic process”, it said.
Spokesperson and Secretary General of the PPPP Senator Farhatullah Babar said that the Party also discussed the forthcoming general elections next year and directed all party chapters to gear up, ensure women voting and take all steps needed to prevent any rigging.

“The PPP will not be a party to any movement that may result in derailing the system or undermining the Parliament, he said.

The CEC expressed grave disappointment over the recent verdict of the anti terror court in the murder case of Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto describing it as unacceptable and vowed to vigorously pursue the appeal filed against the verdict to expose the culprits and bring them to justice.
The meeting also expressed grave concern over media reports suggesting that militant organizations were being streamlined and reminded  that under the National Action Plan banned militant outfits will not be allowed to reappear under other names.
The CEC resolved to vigorously pursue FATA merger with KPK, extend jurisdiction of peshawar high court to tribal areas and other reforms in FATA. It expreased concern over the levying of new taxes on people of GB without giving them their rights and which had led to mass protests in the area and demanded that no taxes without giving them their rights.
The meeting demanded that fresh delimitation work in accordance with the recently passed Constitutional amendment bill be carried out according to the law and without interference by the executive.
The CEC rejected unilateral moves to declare Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and warned against its consequences. It also expressed solidarity with the people of Kashmir.
Senator Farhatullah Babar said that the CEC also expressed grave concern over the discrimination in accountability of political leaders from Punjab and those from Sindh. It also denounced moves to roll back provincial autonomy and non implementation of the 18th Amendment. It also condemned closure of Sindh canals ahead of time behind the back of provincial government and called it a violation of the rights of the people of Sindh.
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   :نوڈیرو
پاکستان پیپلز پارٹی نے مطالبہ کیا ہے کہ انتخابات نئی حلقہ بندیوں کی بنیاد پر بروقت کرائے جائیں، پشاور ہائی کورٹ کا دائرہ اختیار فاٹا تک بڑھانے اور قبائلی علاقہ جات میں دیگر اصلاحات لا کر اس کا کے پی سے انضمام کیا جائے اور اس کے لئے پارلیمنٹ میں بل پیش کیا جائے، اور میثاق جمہوریت کے وژن کے مطابق ایک سچائی اور مفاہمت کا کمیشن قائم کیا جائے تاکہ تاریخ کے مسخ کرنے کے عمل کو درست کیا جائے اور سیاسی دوریوں کو روکا جائے۔ یہ تمام مطالبات ان قراردادوں میں کئے گئے جو پاکستان پیپلزپارٹی اور پاکستان پیپلزپارٹی پارلیمنٹیرینز کی سینٹرل ایگزیکٹو کمیٹیوں کے مشترکہ اجلاس میں کئے گئے جس کی صدارت مشترکہ طور پر آصف علی زرداری اور بلاول بھٹو زرداری نے نوڈیرو ہاﺅس میں کی۔ یہ اجلاس شہید محترمہ بینظیر بھٹو کے دسویں یوم شہادت کے موقع پر نوڈیرو ہاﺅس میں منعقد کیا گیا۔ قرارداد میں کہا گیا کہ پاکستان پیپلزپارٹی اس بات کو واضح انداز میں کہنا چاہتی ہے کہ وہ جمہوری عمل کے تسلسل میں کسی قسم کی رکاوٹ برداشت نہیں کرے گی۔ پارٹی کے ترجمان اور پی پی پی پی کے سیکریٹری جنرل سینیٹر فرحت اللہ بابر نے کہا کہ پارٹی نے آئند عام انتخابات جو اگلے سال منعقد ہونے والے ہیں پر بھی غوروخوض کیا اور پارٹی کی تمام تنظیموں کو ہدایت کی کہ وہ اپنی سرگرمیاں تیز کردیں، خواتین کے ووٹ کو یقینی بنائیں اور ہر قسم کی دھاندلی کو روکنے کے لئے تمام ضروری اقدامات کرے۔ انہو ں نے کہا کہ پاکستان پیپلزپارٹی کسی بھی ایسی تحریک کا حصہ نہیں بنے گی جو نظام کو پٹڑی سے اتار دے اور پارلیمنٹ کی حیثیت کم کرے۔ سی ای سی نے اس بات پر سخت مایوسی کا اظہار کیا جس میںانسداد دہشتگردی کی عدالت نے شہید محترمہ بینظیر بھٹو کے مقدمے میں یہ فیصلہ دیا اسے ناقابل قبول قراردیتے ہوئے اس عزم کا اعادہ کیا کہ اس فیصلے کے خلاف دائر کردہ اپیل کا مقدمہ پوری قوت سے لڑے گی تاکہ شہید محترمہ بینظیر بھٹو کے قاتلوں کو انصاف کے کٹہرے میں لایا جائے۔ اجلاس نے اس بات پر بھی سخت تشویش کا اظہار کیا کہ میڈیا رپورٹوں کے مطابق عسکریت پسند تنظیموں کو قومی دھارے میں لایا جا رہا ہے اور یاددہانی کروائی کہ نیشنل ایکشن پلان کے تحت ان کالعدم عسکریت پسند تنظیموں کو کسی بھی دوسرے نام سے ابھرنے کی اجازت نہیں دی جائے گی۔ سی ای سی نے اس عزم کا بھی اعادہ کیا کہ پشاور ہائی کورٹ کا دائرہ اختیار قبائلی علاقوں تک بڑھایا جائے گا اور فاٹا میں دیگر اصلاحات بھی کی جائیں گی۔ اجلاس نے اس بات پر بھی تشویش کا اظہار کیا کہ گلگت بلتستان کے شریوں کو ان کے حقوق دئیے بغیر ان پر نئے ٹیکسز لاگو کئے جا رہے جن کی وجہ سے پورے علاقے میں احتجاج بھی ہوئے ہیں اور مطالبہ کیا گیا کہ انہیں ان کے حقوق دئیے بغیر ان پر کوئی ٹیکس نہ لگایا جائے۔ اجلاس نے یہ مطالبہ بھی کیا کہ حالیہ پاس شدہ آئینی ترمیمی بل کے مطابق نئی حلقہ بندیاں شروع کی جائیں اور ان حلقہ بندیوں میں حکومت کی کوئی دخل اندازی نہیں ہونی چاہیے۔ سی ای سی نے یروشلم کو یکطرفہ طور پر اسرائیل کا دارالخلافہ بنانے کا اعلان کرنے کو مسترد کرتے ہوئے اس کے مضمرات سے خبردار کیا۔ اجلاس نے کشمیری عوام سے بھی یکجہتی کا اظہار کیا۔ سینیٹر فرحت اللہ بابر نے کہا کہ اجلاس نے اس بات پر بھی شدید تشویش کا اظہار کیا کہ پنجاب اور سندھ کے سیاسی لیڈروں کے درمیان احتساب کے عمل میں امتیازبرتا جا رہا ہے۔ اجلاس نے اس بات کی بھی مذمت کی کہ صوبائی خودمختاری کو رول بیک کیا جا رہا ہے اور اٹھارہویں ترمیم پر عملدرآمد نہیں ہو رہا۔ اجلاس نے اس بات کی بھی مذمت کی کہ سندھ کی نہروں میں پانی کے بہاﺅ کو وقت سے پہلے روک دیا گیا ہے اور اسے سندھ کے عوام کے حقوق کی خلاف ورزی قرار دیا۔
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OP-ED: Benazir’s battle against extremism

I was all but 11 years of age when I made a promise to Shaheed BB that “when I grow up I will work with you”. It was a promise she would often remind me of whenever we would happen to meet. On the 18th of October 2007 when Shaheed BB returned to Pakistan after a long and testing exile of five years, I knew it was time. I wrote to her expressing my desire to assist her in any way possible. Her response was immediate, precise and clear “I welcome your support for the PPP and my struggle to restore democracy and save Pakistan from an extremist takeover”.

Looking back from where we are today, BB’s clarity of vision was prophetic. In her wisdom, she knew that only a genuine, empowered democracy can save Pakistan from the curse of extremism. Given the political and ideological polarisation in Pakistan, it became incumbent on her to steer the country in the right direction and assume the challenge of defeating extremist terrorism and securing democracy. Her message became an ominous augury of what was to come on the ill fated 27th of December 2007 when Shaheed BB lost her life in a terrorist attack.

Tragically, Benazir Bhutto’s death did not spur an awakening or realisation in Pakistan leading to tough action being meted out to terrorist networks operating inside the country with impunity. To the contrary, with the last bulwark against extremism gone, we are seeing a steadily consistent emboldening of armed militancy and religious extremism and a surrendering of authority and power by the State and State institutions. The ethnic cleansing of various communities such as the Hazaras, Ahmadis and Shias, the soul shattering attack on APS children, the crippling Faizabad siege of Pakistan’s capital city are just a few examples of how terror is being allowed to reign in the name of religion, rule of law is being held in abeyance, fundamental rights of people are being flagrantly violated and State institutions are failing to protect Pakistan’s citizens.

Security experts have identified two core features of extremist groups. One, they derive strength from intimidation of and violence against marginalised groups such as immigrants, religious and ethnic minorities and rights activists. Two, they are often supported by elements within the state, be it security forces or even established political parties.

Ironic as it may be, those who blatantly reject the ethos of democracy and refuse to submit themselves to the supremacy of democratic institution and the rule of law are being politically empowered by bringing them into the very institutions that symbolise democracy

What further provides extremist organisations the perfect breeding ground is a weak or no democracy. A report published by Freedom House in 2015 concludes that “While terrorism poses a threat to democratic and non democratic societies alike, it is apparently able to flourish only in dictatorships, states with authoritarian leaning and regimes and settings that suffer from weak or corrupt governments”.

Therefore, dictatorial or authoritarian states, states with a transitioning democracy, or states with weak democratic values and systems create an enabling environment for extremism. Consequently, whenever there is a tug of war between the politics of terrorism and the politics of democracy for control and authority, it is the latter which suffers a disadvantage before the former.

Brookings policy brief on “Democracy and Terrorism”, 2017 states that empirical evidence points towards a strong relationship between terrorism and a weak democracy and its “findings suggest that a country’s best defence against terrorism is to improve the legitimacy of the state through more democratic, human rights, and rule of law practices at the local, national, and international levels. Drivers of terrorist violence, nonetheless, derive from multiple and complex sources, many of which are local.”

Although historically, extremist religious parties have never scored an impressive win in Pakistan’s general elections, the effects of their intimidation on national politics are no longer deniable. Be it shaping policy agendas, or determining content of school text books; influencing the legal judicial system or enjoying full impunity from law, their assertive presence is now felt more than ever before.

A mind set which was previously seen as a fringe element is today being systematically mainstreamed into national politics. Ironic as it may be, those who blatantly reject the ethos of democracy and refuse to submit themselves to the supremacy of democratic institution and the rule of law; those who refuse to recognise the fundamental rights of every citizen irrespective of religion, belief or gender are being politically empowered by bringing them into the very institutions that symbolism democracy. How these extremist elements blatantly undermine every covenant, principle and ideal of democracy is evident from how the only tool of self expression and assertion known to them is intimidation and instilling fear.

Regardless of how well extremist groups are white washed, spruced up and presented as evolved and transformed individuals, regardless through what channels they enter into mainstream politics or what political value is erroneously attached to them, they never have and they never will bode well for democracy.

The writer is a Barrister at law, human rights activist and former member of National Assembly of Pakistan. Twitter: @AizehIHaider

Published in Daily Times, December 27th 2017.

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OP-ED: Remembering Benazir Bhutto

December is a painful month in the history of Pakistan. From the Dhaka fall on December 16 in 1971 to the ruthless killing of 132 innocent childrenRiaz Ali Toori and teachers at the Army Public School Peshawar on the same day in 2014 and the assassination of Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto on December 27 in 2007, there are several bitter memories associated with the month.

Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto lived and died for the people of Pakistan. She shall be remembered forever in the history of Pakistan for her matchless services, immense bravery and for standing against forces that never desired a prosperous, progressive and peaceful Pakistan. Although she was aware of all the threats to her life, the fearless leader did not give up hope and courageously continued her struggle to peacefully win the fight for a progressive Pakistan.

Her rivals had begun conspiracies against her soon after the assassination of her father. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was sent to gallows by a dictator who was mastermind of the same regressive mindset that Pakistan is fighting today. For them, the lone young girl was the only hurdle in their way of transforming Pakistan into an extremist state having zero tolerance for people professing a different faith or ideology.

Her struggle and love for the people of Pakistan endeared her to all who supported her whole-heartedly even at the cost of their lives. Many went to jail bearing pains and torture, and eventually laid down their lives while protecting their beloved leader. She was the only voice of the subjugated people of Pakistan.

History is witness to the fact that ruthless regressive forces across the world unashamedly abetted their local representatives against Benazir. Islami Jamhoori Ittehad (IJI) was formed to subdue her political role and religious decrees (fatwas) against her were issued in a bid to demoralise her. She also went through mental trauma during imprisonment, house arrests and fake corruption cases.

The mindset that killed Benazir Bhutto continues to kill our troops and civilians. Benazir Bhutto was later joined by thousands of her fellow Pakistanis who were killed by these merciless terrorists

A storm of pains and troubles was hurled at Benazir Bhutto and her family, yet in these very adverse circumstances, she stood tall and continued the struggle. Benazir, the solitary brave young girl, not only challenged the most formidable forces but also kept on winning her battles against them.

The conspiracy of killing Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was with the purpose of eliminating his legacy and rendering his family toothless was hatched much earlier, but Benazir stood up as against all odds, vociferously defending her family’s legacy.

All national and international sources were used to convince Benazir Bhutto to not return to Pakistan and even she herself had all along known of the threats to her life, yet she returned enthusiastically to be among her own people.

On her return on October 18, 2007, her homecoming rally was attacked and two giant bomb blasts claimed lives of several workers of the PPP. These painful scenes could not dissuade her from pursuing her struggle and she continued visiting almost every city of the country, coming out of her vehicle, waving her hands and responding to the enthusiastic workers.

No threat, conspiracy, design and even attack on her life could stop Benazir from staying away from her people. In the history of mankind, there are rare examples where we find a lone woman who is determined, heroic and fearless like Benazir. Benazir was indeed Benazir — unique and unmatched in her actions, thoughts and ideology as well as in upholding her father’s legacy.

Ten years have passed but the wounds inflicted on December 27, 2007 are still fresh rendering the day more sorrowful than before. The mindset that killed Benazir Bhutto still continues to kill our troops and civilians. Benazir Bhutto was later joined by thousands of her fellow nationals from Parachinar to Karachi, Quetta to Gilgit Baltistan who were killed by these merciless terrorists.

Shaheed Benazir Bhutto’s last words during her address to thousands of her devotees in Liaquat Bagh Rawalpindi proved her resolve and devotion towards her country and its people. She had said, “I put my life in danger and came here because I feel this country (Pakistan) is in danger. I want to see a prosperous, progressive and developed Pakistan.”

Today all eyes are set on Bilawal Bhutto Zardari to accomplish the mission of Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto of seeing a prosperous, progressive and developed Pakistan where the children in schools and worshipers in their respective places of worship can feel safe.

Today the PPP workers are sensing amongst them the presence of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s grandson as a live image of his mother, Shaheed Benazir Bhutto which was evident from the party’s public meeting on the occasion of 50th foundation day of PPP on December 5th. The public meeting was well-attended by the diehard supporters of the PPP. Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto’s martyrdom had left the liberal and progressive mindset of the country bereaved and she will always be remembered for her patience, valour, fearlessness and struggle in the face of extremist forces.

The writer is resident of Parachinar (FATA) and an activist affiliated with the PPP. He tweets @RiazToori

Published in Daily Times, December 27th 2017.

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Op-ED: SMBB embraced death for democracy’s sake

She was assassinated when Pakistan needed her for its very survival. And this was the reason she shrugged aside death threats against he3

Wajid Shamsul Hasan

It has been ten years now that martyred Benazir Bhutto was assassinated in the garrison town of Rawalpindi — nearer to the spot where Pakistan’s first Prime Minister Liquat Ali Khan was shot dead and a little further away where Pakistan’s only elected prime minister — Zulfikar Ali Bhutto — was hanged by a military dictator on the trumped up charge of murder. These three un-natural deaths sum up Pakistan’s chequered history — each had a fall out worst than the previous.

Benazir Bhutto seems to be the one that happened yesterday. However, its traumatising impact continues to reverberate in Pakistan’s polity as well she is missed globally. British Prime Minister Theresa May in her address to the 72nd annual session of the United Nations reminded of her. “This year is the tenth anniversary of the death of Benazir Bhutto who was brutally murdered by people who actively rejected the values that all of us here at the United Nations stand for….”

Indeed, only a leader of Benazir Bhutto’s courage could have taken on the challenge posed by the extremists to global peace. While world’s future has passed into the hands of a leadership that only knows how to bask in a cauldron of uncertainties created by it, Pakistan is not better than she had left. Rather its future seems to be as unpredictable as it was under dictatorship. Having singed the dictator in his den, election in 2008 was the price she had to pay with her blood.

Another election around the corner, events in the country starting from the Panamagate, disqualification of an elected prime minister by the Supreme Court followed by confrontation with the judiciary on the issue of what the ruling party and Sharif family thinks ‘questionable judgements’, there naturally is a big question mark whether there would be yet another elected government or not. Notwithstanding the pious note of commitment to democracy by army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa in his Senate briefing, one cannot rule out the eventuality of a situation that could lead to an out of box action. There is no doubt that Nawaz Sharif and his party by their lack of interest in Parliament, abdicated enough space to those elements who would rather see umpire raise his finger. Despite PML-N’s betrayals, it must thank its stars that Pakistan’s other major political force — the PPP and its leader Bilawal Bhutto — are not giving up their principled stand that PML-N government must complete its tenure.

British Prime Minister Theresa May mentioned BB in her address to the 72nd annual session of the United Nations, saying ‘This year is the 10th anniversary of the death of Benazir Bhutto who was brutally murdered by people who actively rejected the values that all of us here at the United Nations stand for….’

Bhutto died for a pluralistic democratic society, governed on the basis of equality and social justice with religion being a private affair. Unfortunately whatever she, her father or the founder wanted Pakistan to be — have been rendered into unachievable goals. Instead of sustaining empowerment of the underprivileged including women and converting Pakistan into a secular polity, there is serious talk of mainstreaming terrorists who were responsible for bombing of our children, killing of the soldiers and people at large — nearly 80,000. Emergence of Milli Millat Party (MMP), Labaik Party, Pervez Musharraf’s 23-party alliance and revived MMA — are ominous signs. Why do they smell of rat is simple. It has something to do with politics of engineering by powers that be.

I had originally planned this article to be a tribute to the memory of Bibi especially of my association with her for nearly 35 years. She was assassinated when Pakistan needed her most — for its very survival. And this was the reason that she shrugged aside with contempt — the threats of death to her. I can never forget her words before she left for Pakistan. While lot of her supporters and admirers were listed to accompany her I was not. Intrigued I was and before I could question her she had the answer for me. “No I don’t want you to accompany me as something horrible is going to happen to me.”

Conversation revealed that she was under death threat but she was determined to go back to her people waiting for her. Dictator General Musharraf had repeatedly told or conveyed to her what was in store for her. She, however, believed that “the path we choose will determine the outcome of the battle between extremism and moderation. By empowering the people and building political institutions, we can prove that the fundamental battle for the hearts and minds of a nation can only be won in democracy and not through barrel of the gun.”

When I tried to dissuade her she looked at me pensively and said — “which death would be better — to be run over by a double decker bus while crossing the road or to die for the cause you have all your life struggled for. We must die for the cause we lived for.” I tried to argue her out but she wouldn’t listen. Her faith in the people was reflected when she said: “I am confident about the future of Pakistan. I believe that a nation that is inspired by democracy, human rights and economic opportunity will turn its back decisively against extremism. I look forward to the day that a truly democratic Pakistan, unhindered by extremists and military rule, takes its place on the world stage” were some of her last words.

Once discussing the extremist threat to Pakistan’s liberal and secular agenda, growing intolerance and use of such elements by the Establishment, I found her to be under no disillusions. Her view was religious forces in Pakistan could be a physical threat but politically marginal. Whether it were Barelvis or Deobandis — it didn’t matter. Had they a vote bank all the religious parties put together would have captured the parliament. She was of the view that the Barelvis, Deobandis and others clobbered together by Pervez Musharraf even then he had to engineer results in 2002 elections to get MMA respectable number of seats.

Although media experts are over magnifying the role of Barelvis and Deobandis in Pakistan’s electoral politics, I tend to agree with the view that the people don’t cast their vote on the basis of religion. It is the media analysts who engineer results on grounds of religion. Had religion been a factor then there would not have been Pakistan today under a leader who the rightists called an infidel.

The writer is the former High Commissioner of Pakistan to UK and a veteran journalist

Published in Daily Times, December 27th 2017.

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10th Martyrdom anniversary of Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto

Islamabad December 26, 2017: “Today we pay homage to Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto for her vision about Pakistan as a modern and progressive state and for her commitment to fight armed religious fanatics from hijacking the state and society in the name of religion”.

This has been stated by former President Asif Ali Zardari on the eve of the 10th martyrdom anniversary of Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto on Wednesday.

“She knew full well that the hounds of extremism and religious fanaticism were out to remove her from their path. She also had the choice to opt for an easy path and not resist the fanatics. But she had a dream and a vision for the people of Pakistan. For the realization of this dream she laid down her life while leading the fight from the front. Today as we pay her homage our heads also bow in gratitude”.

“Such is the stuff of which the leaders and workers of the Pakistan Peoples Party are made”. The Party is proud of its inspirational leaders.

On this occasion we salute Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto and all those who laid down their lives in fight for upholding the values of democracy, constitutionalism and rule of law, he said. If militants have not succeeded in their designs it is because of their sacrifices, we salute them all.

The Party will fight the barbarians seeking to take over the state and install what they call caliphate. Their agenda is no different from that of Da’ish in Iraq and Syria, Al –Shabbab in Kenya and Boko Haram in Nigeria. We also pay homage to those fighting the militants as well those who suffered exile, imprisonment and execution in fighting dictatorship, he said.

Sindh announces holiday on Benazir’s death anniversary

KARACHI: The provincial government of Sindh has announced a public holiday on Wednesday on account of 10th death anniversary of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto.

Benazir, twice elected as the prime minister of Pakistan, was assassinated on December 27, 2007, as she returned after addressing a mammoth rally at Rawalpindi’s Liaquat Bagh. Gunshots were heard, followed by a suicide blast at the venue, which left the former premier among nearly two dozen others dead.

The PPP has been commemorating the 10th death anniversary of its late leader, regarding which it has organised a central ceremony in Bhutto’s ancestral village Garhi Khuda Bakhsh in Larkana district of Sindh.

All preparations have been finalised for the events marking the death anniversary, while caravans of party workers have been en route to Larkana to pay their respects to their late leader.

A meeting of the PPP central executive council is scheduled for today at the Naudero House in Larkana, for which key party members have already arrived in Larkana. PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari will jointly preside over the meeting.

The anniversary observances will start with a ‘Mushaira’ at 1 pm, followed by a condolence rally at 4 pm on Wednesday. The rally would be addressed by Zardari and Bilawal.

Speaking to media earlier at the Sukkur airport, Sherry Rehman said Benazir Bhutto laid her life like a soldier. She criticised the incumbent government in the centre for pushing the country under huge debts, adding that only the PPP has the narrative of development.

Former interior minister Rehman Malik demanded the Afghan president to hand over the suspect involved in Bhutto’s assassination.

Latif Khosa said the PPP, despite having given sacrifices, raised the slogan of ‘Pakistan khappay’.

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Former President Zardari condemns Quetta terror attack

Islamabad, 17 December 2017: Former President of Pakistan and President Pakistan Peoples Party Parliamentarians Asif Ali Zardari has strongly condemned suicide attack on a Church on Sunday in Quetta killing several people and injuring many more.

Expressing deep grief over the loss of precious innocent lives who were praying at the time, the former President vowed that the PPP would stand by the side of the Christian brethren and indeed all non-Muslim in the fight against all manifestations of barbaric, militancy and extremism. He asked the workers to visit the victims’ families and the injured ones to express solidarity with them.

Former President said that the attacks on citizens and security forces and the bloodletting of innocent people cannot and must not be allowed to go on with impunity. He called for immediate, decisive and credible measures to stop this barbarism.

He prayed to Almighty Allah for eternal peace to the departed souls and early recovery for the injured. He also sympathized with the bereaved families

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Homage to the martyrs of APS Peshawar

 

Former President deplores non implementation of National Action Plan

 

Islamabad December 16, 2017: “On this day three years ago the young students, the teachers and staff of the Army Public School Peshawar bore the brunt of the tyrants and religious fanatics and shed their blood that brought the entire nation together to resolve to fight the extremists to the finish. All those who were martyred in the gruesome attack on APS that day are national heroes and heroines and while we salute them we also pledge that their sacrifices will not go in vain”.

 

In a message on the third anniversary of the attack on APS the former President also deplored that the National Action Plan (NAP) devised to root out terrorism to avenge the blood of the martyrs had not been implemented in letter and spirit.

 

 Failure in implementing the NAP amounts to rejecting the sacrifices of countless shuhada of the armed forces, the para-military forces, the police and the civilians in the fight against militancy and extremism, he said.

 

 On this day we also call for bringing all perpetrators of the heinous crime to justice and accountability of those who  have failed in implementation of the NAP, he said.

 

The former President lamented that banned militant organizations had resurrected under different names behind the façade of charity work. FATA reforms promised in the NAP was thrown to the wind as the proposed Bill was mysteriously withdrawn from the Agenda of the National Assembly without any reason a few days ago.

 

Zardari demanded the government to bring up immediately before the Parliament the FATA Reforms Bill that paves way for merger of tribal areas with the Pakhtunkhwa province as part of the NAP to pay homage to the martyrs of APS Peshawar.

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Allah ousted Nawaz, judges were mere tools: Zardari

MULTAN: Former president Asif Ali Zardari on Friday said he isn’t a part of any conspiracy against Nawaz till today but he can hatch a conspiracy against him tomorrow.

Addressing a mammoth gathering at Qila Qasim Bagh, he announced that he would form the next government at all costs and said Nawaz’s disqualification was written on the wall because he opted to go extreme in all matters. Allah disqualified [Nawaz] but the judges were the source of his disqualification, he remarked. He said Nawaz was having a fight with everyone and finally God imposed his justice because he was destroying the masses. “Neither the poor were happy, nor the peasants. Only Nawaz Sharif and his some friends were happy. Countries make progress when the poor become rich.”

Zardari described Yousaf Raza Gilani as a brave person and said he was removed and disqualified when he rejected the government [state] within the [state] government. It was a turning point and a war started but the PPP completed the five-year term, he added.

The escape of Nawaz and Ishaq Dar, he remarked, had proved their commitment to facing imprisonment. Zardari said, “Nawaz Sharif does not know the definition of China Pakistan Economic Corridor and he only knows that CPEC is a loaning agency but borrower would demand return of his loan.”

PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said the days of the younger Mian Sahib [Shahbaz Sharif] were numbered and he would have to accept [his role] in the Model Town killings, committing mega corruption in Multan Metro project and keeping the southern Punjab deprived of basic facilities.

Bilawal said Nawaz Sharif had been claiming to be committed to ideology without explaining what it was. Nawaz represented the ideology which he promised at the grave of a dictator Ziaul Haq. Nawaz’s ideology was aimed at weakening and dishonouring parliament, as he ran the government through remote, he added.

He said former president Asif Zardari made all possible efforts to strengthen democracy and parliament but Nawaz spoiled everything. “Mian Sahib! If democracy is fragile today, it is because of you. If people are suffering today, it is because of you,” Bilawal claimed.

He said the PML-N created hurdles in the creation of Seraiki province and promised that his party would create the province after coming into power.

Bilawal alleged that the budget allocated for horticulture in Lahore was many times more than south Punjab’s health budget. He said the PPP had laid down a network of health facilities across Sindh, which was unprecedented, providing free treatment to everyone.

The PPP chairman said the PML-N did not protect the interests of Seraiki region but his party would always stand with the Seraiki people. The PPP had awarded land ownership rights to peasants having 12 acres of land, he said and recalled that Shaheed Benazir Bhutto provided electricity to backward areas.

Criticising Imran Khan, he said “the Niazi Offshore Services” was using filthy language. “The Faizabad people may bear that filthy language but the PPP cannot tolerate it. Imran is a close aide to Maulana Samiul Haq,” he remarked, advising Imran to shun the politics of terrorism and jihad.

“I cannot say any word about Imran Khan but tell him one thing he needs to learn some political ethics. This is my first election and it would be the last election for Imran Khan,” he said. He said Imran was claiming to be the leader of youth but first he must tell his own age. “His KP chief minister is one of the oldest CMs in the country but the PPP has one of the youngest chief ministers in Sindh. Imran Khan has no political manifesto. Unemployment is the major issue of youth and the PPP is the only party that can provide jobs to youth.”

Bilawal announced his five-point agenda, which includes complete elimination of GST on seeds and fertilizers, fixing support price before sowing, water distribution in transparent way, transparent wheat bags distribution and protection of sugarcane growers.

“The PPP strongly believes that prosperity of farmers is the uplift and development of the country. The PPP would stop exploitation of small growers. The farmers have become tenants on their ancestral lands and PPP would eliminate this injustice,” he said.

Criticising the government’s agriculture policies, he said the main objective was to promote corporate farming. The PPP would end corporate farming, bringing cooperative farming and not allow playing with the fate of oppressed farmers, he added.

He said the PML-N had destroyed the rural society but the PPP would free farmers from the clutches of middlemen. Bilawal said he was feeling proud of addressing at a place where his grandfather Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and his mother Shaheed Benazir Bhutto addressed the people of Multan. “This is the land of great mystic Khawaja Ghulam Farid and Shams Tabrez. Multan is the city of saints and mystics. The Seraiki language is spoken in all the four provinces of the country.”

He said the comrades of Multan played a vanguard role in resistance against dictatorships and tyrannies, adding that the Colony Textile workers sacrificed their lives against Zia when he ordered paramilitary forces to kill them.

Gilani, who also addressed the rally, said only the PPP was representing the downtrodden classes and the creation of a separate province was the sole solution to the region’s backwardness.

Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Khursheed Shah said the country does not need a deaf and blind leadership which believes in abusing others. The News