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LARKANA: Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari has said the Imran Khan-led government could be toppled but an ‘out-of-the-box strategy’ will have to be adopted to remove him from power.

He was among various political leaders of the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), who addressed a public gathering at Garhi Khuda Bakhsh to commemorate the 13th death anniversary of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto on Sunday.

The ailing former president, speaking through video-link, said that he had “removed Musharraf from power. What is Imran Khan, in comparison? “We can remove Imran Khan Niazi. We just need to change our approach,” he told the crowd.

“We must fill up the jails for the purpose and we are ready to do that,” Zardari said. He said that running a country is “not the same as managing a cricket team”. “This government will collapse on its own,” added Zardari. He challenged the government to hold elections and see who the people stand behind.

Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) Vice-President Maryam Nawaz, in her opening remarks, sent regards to the crowd in Sindhi language and thanked the PPP leadership, particularly Bilawal Bhutto, for receiving her in their hometown late in the night in extremely cold weather. She said not only the PPP was mourning the death of Benazir Bhutto but the entire nation, including her party, was saddened by the assassination of former prime minister 13 years ago.

Maryam said it saddens her that Benazir Bhutto, the first woman prime minister of the Muslim world, “had to lay down her life” during her struggle and for her beliefs. She said it is a pain that she too carries.

“Benazir fought for her father’s struggle and vision and then ultimately joined him in the life hereafter. “I too wish to struggle for a united Pakistan,” she said.

She vowed that she and Bilawal would not only continue the journey but also take it forward. “The political mistakes that were made in the past were taken advantage of by the anti-democratic forces.”

Maryam said all political parties then joined heads and not only made right the wrongs but vowed never to repeat them. She said that the fruits of the move were then borne, when governments were set to complete their tenures.

“In 2008, when there was talk of the PPP government being toppled, Nawaz Sharif quashed such thinking and said that the coming and going of governments is a decision for the people to make, not political parties.”

She said “some forces” for whom a “divide and rule” strategy made more sense, then “put together fallen fragments from political parties and formed the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf”.

Maryam said then an “incompetent man” was “imposed on us all”. But now that process of selecting someone and imposing him on the people should be stopped, she added.

Maryam said the corrupt are pardoned, whereas political leaders are “thrown into jail, shot down and made to face the courts.

“But you can never send to the gallows or exile a political ideology […] which is why, there is no one to take your name, but in every corner of Pakistan, there are people to utter Nawaz Sharif’s and Benazir Bhutto’s names.”

PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, addressing the gathering, attended by the 11-party opposition alliance, PDM, once more asked Prime Minister Imran Khan “to step down” or face a long march on Islamabad with the aim to “dethrone him”.

Bilawal said if Imran Khan did not tender his resignation till Dec 31, the jiyalas (party loyalists) would march on the capital and “drag him off his seat”.

He said the government and any naysayer who think the opposition will back off, need only look to the Bhutto mausoleum.

Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-F (JUI-F) leader Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri paid tribute to the late Benazir Bhutto, saying the ‘iron lady’ struggled to restore the democracy fearlessly and endured hardships and confinements along the way. Haideri said the incumbent PTI government, due to its flawed policies, had weakened the country and claimed that it was using “NAB black laws” to victimise the opposition leaders. He said masses were fed up with the government, and the day those providing it crutches would withdraw their support to it, it would collapse automatically.

“We are here to pledge that we will not sit idle until this selected and incompetent government is sent packing,” added the JUI-F leader.

National Party President Abdul Malik Baloch spoke of the parliament “being taken hostage” and how farmers were “dying of hunger”. He said the opposition parties believe in the power of vote and they would reach the Parliament with the power of people. “The government in power today is a slap in the face of democracy,” he added.

Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) leader Mahmood Khan Achakzai said the source of power should be people and parliament. He said the PDM agenda was to uphold the Constitution in the country and everyone should listen to the voices being raised from the platform.

Sardar Akhtar Mengal, chief of Balochistan National Party (Mengal group), said: “We have love for the soil of Sindh. Relations between Sindh and Balochistan predate Pakistan.” Regretting that dictators always violated the Constitution, he said that even dictatorship failed to dent these ties.

He said Benazir Bhutto served her whole life in upholding democracy and for this country. “She had strived against dictators like the ones we are fighting today,” he added. “Who were those dictators?” he asked, adding that “political workers were flogged, women were widowed, children kidnapped, and lands grabbed… “Political parties were broken, new factions were made,” he said.

Awami National Party Senior Vice President Haider Khan Hoti said he presented salutations to the sacrifices rendered by Bibi Shaheed (Benazir Bhutto).

“Zardari Sahib, I remember your loyalty to Pakhtuns,” he added. “The way you supported us, I will support Bilawal, like an elder brother,” Hoti said. He recalled how Benazir was unafraid to return to the country, despite various threats to her life.

“Standing at the shrine of martyrs today, I promise not to leave the path of service,” the ANP leader declared.

PPP leaders Raja Pervaiz Ashraf and Qamar Zaman Kaira, Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah, Jamiat Ulema-e-Pakistan (JUP) leader Maulana Anas Noorani and others also addressed the public gathering.

Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari and Aseefa Bhutto-Zardari received leaders from various opposition parties in Larkana.

PPP leaders Faryal Talpur and Sherry Rehman also joined the PPP delegation in welcoming the PML-N leader Maryam Nawaz and other members of her delegation.

On Sunday evening, Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari hosted a luncheon for the PDM leaders at Naudero House in Larkana.

APP adds: The 13th assassination anniversary of former prime minister and Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) chairperson Benazir Bhutto was observed here on Sunday with great zeal and respect, renewing the pledge to make Pakistan stronger and viable in all aspects.

Quran khwani and Fateha khwani were held in every corner of the country for the departed soul of Benazir Bhutto.

People from all walks of life, in their messages on the occasion, paid tribute to Shaheed Bhutto over her services for the cause of the poor and downtrodden people and for progress and prosperity of Pakistan and restoration of democracy in the country. The main death anniversary function was held at Garhi Khuda Bakhsh, about 28-km off Larkana.

Quran khwani was also held at the mazar of Benazir Bhutto in Garhi Khuda Bakhsh. Free food (lunger) was distributed among the people.

Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah, PPP leaders Rehman Malik, Sherry Rehman, PPP Punjab President Qamar Zaman Kaira, former chairman Senate Syed Nayyar Hussain Bukhari, PPP Sindh President Nisar Ahmed Khuhro, Speaker Sindh Assembly Agha Siraj Durrani, senators, provincial ministers also visited the graves of Benazir Bhutto, PPP founder chairman Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and others.

They placed wreath at the graves and offered Fateha. Besides, the leaders and workers of PDM also visited the grave of Benazir Bhutto and offered Fateha.

The leaders and workers of PPP from all over the country, including Gilgit-Baltistan, Northern Areas, AJK were also among those who placed wreaths and offered Fateha.

They also visited the grave of the late Begum Nusrat Bhutto and placed wreaths there and offered Fateha.

Caravans of people started reaching there on Saturday evening to participate in the death anniversary. The coronavirus standard operating procedures (SOPs) were not followed on the occasion.

A Mushaira was also held. Prominent poets from Sindh, Punjab and other parts of the country paid tribute to Benazir Bhutto.

Senior leaders of PPP addressed a public meeting outside the mazar of Benazir Bhutto in Garhi Khuda Bakhsh to pay homage to his services for the country, democratic order and rights of masses.

Due to ill-health, former president and PPP Co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari spoke via video-link. Two-minute silence was observed to pay homage to Benazir Bhutto on her 13th death anniversary at 5:20 pm.

Ambulances and fire tenders were also deployed and first aid camps set up. Additional Inspector General Police Sindh had established a base camp in Naudero to monitor the security arrangements. Strict security arrangements were made for the occasion and about 8,000 personnel of Sindh Police and 300 personnel of Rangers were deployed at the mazar and the roads leading to it.