Chugging along Bilawal

The Pakistan Peoples’ Party (PPP) is calling it a Karavan-e-Bhutto; the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government’s firebrand minister Fawad Chaudhry is calling it ‘Abu Bachao March (March for saving daddy), whereas the national mainstream media is hardly commenting on the march.

The activity begs is a question: what is this Karachi to Larkana train journey by PPP Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari is all about?

PPP’s senior leader and MNA Syed Khursheed Shah has said PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari will launch a ‘Train March’ from Rohri to Rawalpindi to save the people and raise voice against the soaring inflation in the country.

When Bilawal Bhutto set out amidst defeating applauses of the charged crowd at the Karachi Railway Station that his party would not tolerate any attempt against the Constitution, he, in fact, rolled out the whole objective of the activity.

“We won’t allow treason against the Constitution, we won’t allow 1973 constitution to be pilfered, and we believe in above board accountability, we are opposed to political revenge” said analyst Wajid Shamsul Hasan quoted Bilawal as having said. “He reminded his emotionally charged followers replicating the resounding 50-year old PPP’s Jiyala culture that NAB was introduced to prosecute his martyred mother Benazir Bhutto by implicating her in false and fabricated cases of alleged corruption.”

The abrupt announcement of the march raised many eyebrows for the PPP upped political temperatures after the apex court ordered transferring National Accountability Bureau (NAB) cases to Islamabad from Karachi in fake accounts cases. Soon, PPP Co-Chairperson Asif Zardari and Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah were summoned to NAB offices in Islamabad for appearance before a probe team. The PPP complied with NAB orders. On the other hand, Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, however, increased his attacks on the security establishment.

After a very provocative press conference after his appearance before a NAB team, the young PPP leader also announced traveling to Larkana from Karachi on a rented train.

PPP crowds went mad at the announcement and flocked the Karachi Railway Station in droves. The train was welcomed by thousands of PPP workers – women, children and men – on railway stations regardless the train stopped and chugged away at full speed.

In every address to the workers, smiling Bilawal, without raising his tone, attacked mercilessly the prime minister, Imran Khan, and NAB’s vindictive polices against the PPP.

“It seems affairs between the PPP and the establishment have reached the point of no turn,” said journalist Ahsan Raza, who has deep interest in PPP affairs.

“Initially, when Bilawal launched his parliamentary career back in 2018, he was very much calculated in his criticism on the government, sparing the establishment,” he says. “Gradually, he toughened his stance but the timing of his move refuses to dispel the impression that the PPP is marching on NAB cases, not for the sake of constitutional rights. Moreover, the silence of Asif Zardari is meaningful. He has hardly put up any plausible defence against the fake accounts’ allegations. Even Bilawal’s explanation carry no weight when he says that his laundry shop bills are scrutinised but not of banned outfits’.”

When it comes to NAB and the PPP, there is a long history too. NAB was in fact launched, in some other version, back in the late 90s by then powerful prime minister Nawaz Sharif, who himself suffered the NAB stings recently.

“Indeed, can anyone forget how PMLN Senator and Accountability Chief Saifur Rehman, federal law minister M Anwar, chief minister of Punjab and the chief justice of the Lahore High Court who retired in January last as CJP—ordered and arm twisted senior judge of the Lahore High Court as head of the Accountability Court Justice Abdul Qayum and his colleague in the Ehtesab Bench to instantly convict former prime minister Benazir Bhutto and her husband without completing prosecution,” says Wajid Shamsul Hasan. “The Supreme Court of Pakistan took no time in reversing the coerced Ehtesab judgement with severe strictures against Justice Malik Qayum and his brother judge.”

PPP senior leader Khursheed Shah says the success of the march is due to the government’s failure to provide relief to the people. “It is PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, who is rescuing people from this misery and decided to launch a train march against inflation,” he told reporters.

PPP Senator Sherry Rehman says it is not a train march. “Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari just opted the train rout to reach Larkana to attend the death anniversary of PPP founder chairman and his grandfather Zulfikar Ali Bhutto Shaheed,” she said. “Train march is a big event, and when the PPP announces its train march, you will see a sea of people from Karachi to Islamabad.”

People remember a similar train rally by slain prime minister Benazir Bhutto during the 1988 elections. After long years, the PPP has taken the rail track and the intention is not to derail democracy.

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