People of Sindh anxiously wait for Benazir to return

November 14th, 2007 - 2:19 am ICT by admin  
“If Benazir got a horse and told people to vote for the horse, we would line up to vote for the horse,” Muhammad Ali Sheikh, a Larkana shopkeeper said,

The grave of her father Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, at Naodero in Sindh, on the outskirts of his family’s ancestral home in Larkana, is witnessing large streams of visitors daily, the paper reported.

The paper said that these displays of reverence - more usually found at the shrines of sufi saints - are wearily familiar to Muhammad Issa, the caretaker of the grave and the vast Mughal-imitation tomb that houses it.

“Some 50 to 60 carloads arrive every day. They come from all over the country and beyond to pay their respects to Bhutto sahib,” Issa added.

Later this week, it will be the turn of his eldest daughter and political heir, Benazir who will be returning after eight years. Benazir plans to return to Pakistan on Thursday to launch a bid for an historic third term as Prime Minister, the Paper said.

“She’ll get her crown back, God willing,” said Abdul Ghafoor, a flower seller in the hot and dusty bazaar, who is gathering orders for roses that will be showered on Benazir as she tours the streets.

“It will be our heart’s delight if she returns. We were saddened she left us,” Gafoor added.

The sentiments are met with vigorous nods from the crowd that has assembled around the stall.

“She never forgot us when she went,” says another man. “It was just because of the government. They forced her to be away from us,” the paper quoted people, as saying.

Others weigh in with tales of how prayers for her return to power are routinely offered in the local mosques, and scores of cows are being slaughtered in her honour.

Those who manage to move beyond the cultish devotion all complain that little has been done over the past decade to improve their lives. Along with the summer heat, poverty in Pakistan is at its most severe in this Sindh region.

According to Hussain Haroon, a prominent Sindhi political commentator who also keenly awaits Benazir’s return, Islamabad has long been content to ignore the smallest province.

“The only time that the people of Sindh have got their rights is when the PPP (Pakistan People’s Party) was in power,” The Independent quoted Haroon, as saying.

Much of the enthusiasm for Benazir is buttressed on the memory of her father, whose portraits are just as inescapable as hers across the town.

“I love Benazir because of her association with Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. He made our people famous. He took them to new glories,” explained a shopkeeper, Muhammad Ali Sheikh.

Benazir inherited the torch of leadership of the PPP through the bars of her father’s death cell. After braving years of prison and exile, she returned to Pakistan in 1986 as the heroine of the pro-democracy struggle.

The resonance of the Bhutto name was enough for her to secure a narrow triumph at the polls two years later. But her stock fell sharply over the next decade as she was accused of salting away the spoils of power.

While her party’s popularity has remained mostly untouched by the corruption allegations, her moves towards a power-sharing deal with the unpopular General Pervez Musharraf may damage her at the parliamentary elections.

Over recent months, the woman who once sang the virtues of toppling military dictatorships has come under fire from rivals, former party members and estranged family members for betraying her father’s legacy.

But, some 300 miles south in Karachi, preparations for are nearly complete. Vast billboards, bearing life-size images of Benazir beside her father, are being consecrated for her “historic welcome”, the paper concluded. (ANI)

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