ISLAMABAD - The PPP aims a massive show at Liaquat Bagh in Rawalpindi today (December 27) where 12 years ago the charismatic Benazir Bhutto – a two-time Prime Minister - was assassinated in a gun-and-bomb attack.

PPP chief Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, Benazir Bhutto’s son, will address the party workers at the site which is expected to attract large crowds.

Yesterday, the Lahore High Court allowed the PPP to hold the rally at Liaquat Bagh to mark the death anniversary of Benazir Bhutto who was assassinated on December 27, 2007, during an election rally.

Rawalpindi district administration had earlier refused to give permission. Rawalpindi Deputy Commissioner Saifullah Dogar cited police and the Special Branch as opposing a public gathering at the venue owing to prevailing security situation.

The same administration had arranged security for a much-awaited international cricket match between Pakistan and Sri Lanka only a few days ago. The match was aimed at showing the world that Pakistan was now a safe country for any positive activity.

The PPP later filed a petition with the LHC challenging the decision. The court said that it was the responsibility of all law-enforcement agencies to provide security to Bilawal - the PPP Chairman. Benazir Bhutto served as Prime Minister of Pakistan from 1988 to 1990 and again from 1993 to 1996. She was the first woman to head a democratic government in a Muslim majority nation.

Every year, the PPP holds a public meeting or rally to mark Benazir Bhutto’s death anniversary.

This year, however, the day has assumed more significance as Chairman of the party and Benazir Bhutto’s son Bilawal Bhutto Zardari selected the same venue for the public meeting where his mother was assassinated.

Following the court order, police reached the Liaquat Bagh to monitor the preparations where a large number of PPP workers and district officials had been busy in making arrangements to mark their leader’s death anniversary. PPP leaders including Senator Sherry Rehman, Qamar Zaman Kaira, Dr Nafisa Shah, Senator Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar, Chaudhry Manzoor Ahmed and others have been leading the preparation for the rally.

Sherry Rehman, the PPP Vice President, said that the rally will be historic as this would be Bilawal’s first public address after the assassination of Benazir Bhutto at her assassination site. It was not any easy decision to come here, she said.

There are no good memories as the incident is fresh in our minds, she said. But we will not step back as we have to return to Punjab, she added. The Senator said the people from across Pakistan will participate in the rally and demonstrate their love for the PPP.

“The people are fed-up with the ‘revenge government’. The people are being crushed by the rulers,” she added. Qamar Zaman Kaira said that it was the government’s responsibility to ensure security of the venue and oversee smooth arrangements for peaceful gathering. “The LHC has allowed us to hold the rally. The administration had to ensure security,” he added.

Nafisa Shah said that Jiyalas (PPP workers) from all over the country were on their way to Liaquat Bagh. “The opponents and remnants of (former military ruler) Ziaul Haq are not happy over this,” she said.

Senator Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar believed the rally will mark the PPP’s return to Punjab with a big bang.

“The rulers are scared of Bilawal’s popularity. The rally will show why they are scared (of Bilawal). The PPP cannot be kept out. The government is on the way out,” he stated. PPP chief Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has already taken on the government by strongly criticising the removal of 820,165 women beneficieries from the list of Benazir Income Support Programme.

He termed it an attack on the economic empowerment of poverty-ridden women in the country. In a statement, Bilawal said that the government was doling out government benefits only to the moneyed class and seems more interested in unleashing poverty and unemployment in the country.

“The government has taken total U-Turns on its pre-election promises of providing 10 million jobs and 5 million houses. Instead, it is overseeing mass unemployment, mass homelessness in the name of ‘anti-encroachment’, and multiplying poverty through its ruthless anti-poor policies,” he added.

Bilawal said that the Federal Cabinet was guilty of this economic onslaught on the poor.  Their silence as people’s homes are destroyed, as millions lose their jobs, and as women will now have to worry how to feed their children, is criminal, he added.

“The BISP is a lifeline to those women who often had to sacrifice their own dinners in order to ensure their children didn’t sleep hungry. This assault on the livelihoods of the poor and on Pakistan’s only social safety net goes to show the callousness of the PTI regime. Every member of the government, who remains silent on this step, is equally complicit in this economic murder of poor people,” he added.

The PPP Chairman warned the government to immediately withdraw the decision else his party would fiercely oppose it at every forum and would not allow its anti-poor and anti-women policies to be implemented.