Since coming into power in Islamabad and Sindh province five years ago, the Pakistan Peoples Party has marked the death anniversary of its founder, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, with somber ceremony at Garhi Khuda Bukhsh. Tens of thousands congregated each year at the Bhutto mausoleum to signal their fealty to the storied political family. At press time, the day before the April 4 anniversary, this tradition was all set to be discontinued because of security considerations. The announcement raised fresh alarm about the ability of President Asif Ali Zardari’s party to campaign for the May 11 elections in the face of threats from militants. Belatedly, the PPP said it was merely downsizing the event because its candidates were preoccupied with filing their nomination papers and gearing up for the nationwide polls. But the menace is real. The Taliban have threatened the PPP and its coalition partners, and warned people against attending their rallies. Other parties, like Nawaz Sharif’s PMLN and Imran Khan’s PTI, have in the meanwhile held multiple, rousing campaign events. “It is high time party workers and the leadership stood up and started preparations for the upcoming elections. We want a massive campaign across the country,” Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, the 24-year-old PPP chairman, told his supporters recently. But the exhortation felt false. It was made via video link from the safety of the heavily-fortified Bilawal House in Karachi.
From our April 12, 2013, issue.