Leaders of the 11-party opposition alliance Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) have gathered in Larkana on the occasion of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto's 13th death anniversary, for another power show as part of its anti-government protests.
Earlier this month, PPP chairperson Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari had directly contacted leaders of parties in the PDM to invite them to attend the rally at Garhi Khuda Bux in Larkana.
PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz arrived in the province a day earlier while a delegation from the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI-F) is also participating in the rally.
Leaders of the PDM member parties are currently present on the stage at the rally venue, with a large crowd of supporters and PDM workers waving flags in the audience.
TV footage earlier showed large crowds going towards the mausoleum where Benazir is buried next to her father, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, to pay their respects.
Addressing the rally, Jamiat Ulema-i-Pakistan (JUP) leader Awais Noorani said the PDM's fight was "simple" and that it wanted all institutions to operate within their domains.
"We don't want to fight anyone. Stay within your limits and let people make their decisions," he said without naming anyone, adding that the PDM wanted free and fair elections.
Noorani said an election will be held "soon" and asked PDM workers to prepare for it in order to win back their mandate.
In his speech, Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) chief Mehmood Khan Achakzai said today's gathering carried a special meaning because all of Pakistan's political parties "which the establishment set against each other" had joined hands.
"This is God's blessing that Pakistan's parties which used to do who knows what against each other, today are united and agreed and gathered under PDM's [banner]," he said.
Achakzai said the opposition didn't set up the PDM "for our own sake" and that it wanted everyone to adhere to the Constitution. "Democracy is the fountainhead of our political power," he added.
Awami National Party leader Ameer Haider Khan Hoti paid tribute to Benazir's political struggles, saying she knew of the threats facing her but returned to Pakistan to fight with courage before being martyed.
"Today it was said here that by martyring her, an attempt was made to break the chain of Pakistan; that chain was not destroyed, Bilawal did not allow that chain to break. You can see all of Pakistan is present here today," he said.
'Honour to attend Benazir's anniversary'
Earlier today, PDM leaders including Bilawal, Maryam, Achakzai and Balochistan National Party-Mengal (BNP-M) President Sardar Akhtar Mengal had lunch at Naudero House from where they left for Garhi Khuda Bux.
Speaking to reporters before leaving for Sukkur on Saturday, Maryam said she was "very happy that I am going to Benazir Bhutto" on her death anniversary. "She gave her life bravely for this country. It is an honour for me to attend her anniversary," the PML-N vice president said.
She said that the Charter of Democracy given to the nation by Benazir and her father Nawaz Sharif changed history and now she, Bilawal, and all leaders of the PDM would take it forward.
However, JUI-F chief and PDM president Maulana Fazlur Rehman declined the invitation to attend the rally citing other engagements.
Sources said the maulana would not participate because the anniversary programme was not a declared public meeting of PDM.
Instead, a five-member delegation of the party comprising Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri, Abdul Raziq Abid Lakho, Maulana Siraj Ahmad Shah Amroti, Maulana Saud Afzal and Maulana Abdullah Mehr would participate in the anniversary, Maulana Rashid Mehmood Soomro, general secretary of JUI-F Sindh said.
Speaking to the media ahead of his departure for Garhi Khuda Bux, Maulana Haideri said Maulana Fazl did "not have any grievance with Bilawal or PPP". If he had any grievance, he would not have sent his delegation either, Haideri added.
"Everyone has their schedule and obligations. If Bilawal did not come to Mardan, this cannot be called his grievance," he said.
Bilawal himself arrived in Naudero on Friday, two days ahead of the scheduled programme, while his aunt MPA Faryal Talpur was already there to supervise arrangements, sources said earlier.