Starting with a rally in Taxila on Saturday, the opposition took its protest against the premier from the assembly floor to the streets.
The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) announced the commencement of its protest movement against Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, for his refusal to step down after being convicted in a contempt case. However, while the campaign was initially announced to be against the premier’s defiance, PML-N’s ire was directed largely towards President Asif Ali Zardari, whom the party held responsible for not letting the premier follow court orders.
“This is a war to save the Supreme Court,” PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif said, asking the people to be prepared for a ‘long march.’ “The Supreme Court wants to bring back the money stashed in Swiss banks but the government refuses to listen,” Nawaz said.
“We will not rest until the $60 million is brought back,” he added.
Nawaz also thrashed the government for its performance.
“We were willing to be a part of the government to help it move forward … But you tell me: Will you sit in a car which has an inexperienced driver?” he asked rhetorically.
“This government claims of completing its five-year tenure, but what has it achieved in these five years?” he said.
The PML-N chief also commented on the deteriorating law and order situation in various areas of the country: “Is there anyone who cares about Lyari? Or the security situation of Karachi, Balochistan, or Gilgit-Baltistan?”
For all its shortcomings, Nawaz stopped short of asking the government to pack up and hold early elections. In fact, he said, he did not come to the city for an election campaign.
“We have come here for the security and survival of Pakistan … We are here for the future of our children,” he said.
Hitting out at PTI
Earlier, Leader of Opposition Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, who has been elected from Taxila six times, boasted that the rally was organised within three days and this was just a “trailer”. He also hit out at Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI).
“The ones who talk about bringing a revolution – they won’t bring any revolution, they can only bring agony. Ask them what their policy is about Kashmir, about labourers, about farmers and about the US. He [PTI chairman Imran Khan] comes on stages with his rote-learned speeches and starts accusing us,” he stated.
Chaudhry Nisar pointed out that, after the Supreme Court indicted Gilani, Imran Khan said he will wait for a detailed order – and Gilani, in return, started appreciating the PTI chief.
Minister for Information and Broadcasting Qamar Zaman Kaira said that Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) does not need an interpretation of the Supreme Court’s short order in the prime minister’s contempt case by the Sharif brothers and Chaudhry Nisar.
Talking to media in Murree, Kaira said: “We only accept the interpretation of the public, and PPP is enjoying full support and mandate of the public.”
The minister said that all political allies have expressed confidence in Gilani, and advised the Sharif brothers to highlight ‘real issues’ being faced by the country, rather than trying to influence the court.
Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) leader Haidar Abbas Rizvi said that the opposition parties, including the PML-N, must wait for the final detailed verdict of the Supreme Court before taking any decision.
Talking to a private news channel, Rizvi said that the prime minister still has the right to appeal in the case.
He added that democracy gives every political party the right to protest, however, assembly sessions should not be halted.
Awami National Party (ANP) leader Senator Afrasiyab Khattak said that the announcement of a long march by the PML-N in the present political situation is an ‘irresponsible decision’.
Talking to a private news channel, he said if any party is considering a change in the country, it should be brought through a democratic and constitutional way.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 6th, 2012.
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