KARACHI: Amid raids and fanfare, former president Asif Ali Zardari returned to Pakistan from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on Friday, ending his self-imposed exile after a year and a half.
Chief Minister Sindh Syed Murad Ali Shah and Yousuf Raza Gilani welcomed him at the Jinnah International Airport along with PPP’s Qamar Zaman Kaira, Khursheed Shah, Nisar Khuhro, Raja Pervaiz Ashraf and others.
Hundreds of party workers and supporters waited outside the airport to greet their party co-chairman.
“There is a lot of dismay at the moment in the country but I am in Pakistan with a hope,” said Zardari while addressing party workers briefly at the airport’s old terminal and chanted, “Long live Pakistan.”
Addressing supporters, he said, “I remember the day when Bibi came here and you were here to welcome her. Bibi is here with us, Shaheed Zulfiqar is here with us.”
He said, “Pakistan is a safe country by the grace of Allah and efforts of our armed forces.”
“Though there are some tensions at the border”, Zardari said, “Kashmir will become Pakistan soon.”
In a clear indication to Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) in the centre, Zardari said, “It does not matter who is ruling in the country at the moment. Pakistan People’s Party will again form a government one day.”
“When I left the country, people said I have fled the country,” Zardari complained and added in a reaction that “our bodies will be buried in Pakistan.”
Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah received on Ex-President Asif Ali Zardari at Karachi Airport.
December 23rd, 2016 pic.twitter.com/BJAKyjKhc0
— CMHouseSindh (@SindhCMHouse) December 23, 2016
He said the comments labelling him as absconder were based on ‘unsoundness of the minds’ of his detractors.
The former president said, “We (PPP) will now do a democratic struggle in the parliament” as the party workers chanted “Go Nawaz Go”.
Regarding the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), Zardari said, “CPEC is a huge project, beyond the imagination of the current leadership in the country.
After a short address, he later left the airport in a helicopter for Bilawal House.
Strict security measures
Extraordinary security arrangements were made in Karachi today with more than 5,700 security officials including police and special branch officials deployed at every corner of Karachi.
At the old terminal of the Jinnah International Airport at least 10 walk through gates and several close circuit television (CCTV) cameras were placed.
Mobile vans equipped with special surveillance cameras patrolled in the areas close to the venue.
“Three-layered security checks have been created,” said SSP Malir Sohail Akbar and added, “Only to protect the old terminal at the airport, at least 2,000 security officials have been deployed.”
Some 2,000 police officials would ensure speedy traffic flow at the Shahrah-e-Faisal on Friday, he continued.
Alternative traffic plan
Karachi Traffic Police announced an alternate traffic plan to avoid snarl-ups following the homecoming of Zardari today.
“No roads will be closed in Karachi but traffic will be diverted at some points,” said a statement from Karachi Traffic Police.
Residents of Clifton and Defence Housing Authority (DHA) have been advised to take Hino Chowrangi Road and Korangi Industrial Area Road, Murtaza Chowrangi, Malir Halt, Model Colony Road towards the airport.
Those intending to visit Ziauddin Hospital Clifton and the adjoining areas have been advised to use Sea View Road and China Chowrangi Road while those driving towards South City Hospital must take Bahria Underpass.
Residents of Clifton and DHA visiting Jinnah Hospital have been asked to use Chaudhry Khaliq-uz-Zaman Road to Cantt Station Road.
Residents of Landhi and Korangi should turn left from Canteen Stores Department (CSD) towards Jinnah Hospital, while residents of Garden and Saddar should take roads in Saddar.
People visiting the Aga Khan University Hospital and Liaquat National Hospital must take National Stadium Road from University Road and New Town.