Caravan-e-Bhutto: PPP’s show of power?

News Analysis

On Tuesday, Pakistan’s Peoples Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari initiated his ‘train march’ from Karachi Cantt Station, called “Caravan-e-Bhutto”. The march will see the PPP Chairman travel from Karachi to Larkana, which is the ancestral home-ground of the Bhutto family. The march has been done with connection to Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto’s 40th death anniversary.

According to PPP Sindh president Nisar Khuhro, the march aims to launch a massive ‘contact campaign’ and end with a display of power on Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto’s death anniversary.

Khuhro added that the PPP Chairman will make brief stops at Rohri, Sukkur and Habib Kot, where he will address the gathering crowds and workers.

The PPP Chairman also took to twitter to share his travel agenda for the entirety of the march. The tweet also highlighted the places where Bilawal is set to stop and address the crowds.

Bilawal is set to address party workers at 25 different locations before reaching Larkana.

Arrangements for a public gathering at Larkana have already been made, for the day that Bilawal arrives. PPP co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari, with other party officials, will join Bilawal and address the participants of the gathering.

Since Tuesday, Bilawal has already made stops in Landhi and Hyderabad, where he passed remarks criticizing the current government. The PPP Chairman said that the police force was used against his party’s workers in both Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, while they were attacked in Lyari. Bilawal also made comments on the rigging of the elections, stating “worst ever rigging” in the history of Pakistan took place in 2018.

“In Malakand, unknown persons engaged in rigging. Our Form-45 is missing to this date. In Lyari, Rangers did their bit and our Form-45 is still missing.  They tried their best in Larkana too, but could not win. After 20 years a Bhutto reached the Assembly and the fact is a thorn in their side,” said the PPP Chairman.

The PPP chairman also added that, “whatever they could not achieve through rigging, they have now set out to achieve through NAB-thuggery. We do not object to accountability. We believe that when fair accountability takes place, democracy is strengthened. However, we do not accept political vengeance and political engineering under the guise of accountability.”

Over the past few weeks, the PPP chairman has heavily criticized the National Accountability Bureau’s (NAB) investigation in the different corruption cases.

The march will end on the 4th of April, in Larkana, where Bilawal has asked the people to attend the rally.

What does this march mean?

The significance of this march cannot be explained by one reason but through the discussion of an agenda that the PPP representatives have discussed.

If we look at the statements that PPP Sindh chairman Nisar Khuhro has made, the march aims to show the government and the opposition of the political and ideological strength that the PPP still holds in the country today. And this is not just a blanket statement.

The sheer mass of the crowds that awaited Bilawal at Nawabshah, Hyderabad, Tando Adam and Jungshahi, show just how influential the PPP still is in Sindh.   

The march, therefore, shows the political and regional power that the PPP has. For the party itself it could mean that it gains a tremendous amount of media and public attention. While for the government and the opposition this could spell disaster.

If, at any point during this march, the government intervenes through police blockades or other forms of political hindrance than the PPP could use it this to its advantage and show the people that the government is infringing on the political rights of the party.

At the same time, if the march proves successful, there will be a greater response and demand towards the queries raised by Bilawal.

The PPP chairman said, “Even today they [opposition] are still afraid of Z.A Bhutto’s ideology and his thinking.” The unwavering support that Bilawal has gained on the pretense of being a Bhutto, shows just how charismatic Z.A Bhutto was and that generations have come to support his party. So, it is possible that opposing parties are still skeptical or afraid of Z.A Bhutto’s ideologies as they are the same as the ones Bilawal preaches now.

Some analysts are drawing comparisons between Bilawal’s train march and Benazir Bhutto’s long march of 1992 that eventually led to her becoming the Prime Minister of Pakistan a year later.

Following in his grandfather’s and mother’s footsteps, Bilawal has definitely brought the attention of the masses towards himself. Much in the same way as his mother, Bilawal has organized and orchestrated massive rallies for the people to inform them of, what he believes to be is the truth. Regardless, Bilawal has built up a massive following and has not deferred from his ideologies.

The march may prove to the opposition and the government that the hay days of the PPP are far from over, and that it is still extremely influential.

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