Amid fears of a possible terrorist attack, thousands of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) supporters and activists marched in a rally in Peshawar, protesting drone attacks, reopening Nato supply routes, power outages and corruption.
Addressing the rally which was organised from Hashtagairi Chowk to Firdousi Chowk on GT Road, PTI chief Imran Khan also announced to take a peace caravan to Waziristan, a place engulfed by militancy and security operations, by late September. “I ask [President] Asif Ali Zardari to reveal the names of all the innocent people killed in the US drone attacks,” Khan said. “We will take representatives of human rights organisations and the media with us to Waziristan. We will march for peace,” he said.
He added that the party wanted to show the government that “innocent people” were being killed in the area by the drone strikes. A fired-up Imran Khan also warned President Asif Ali Zardari of a ‘tsunami march’ towards Islamabad, if the government attempted to override the judiciary.
Speaking on the US-led war on terror, he said it had nothing to do with Pakistan. “This is not our war, this is not Pakistan’s war,” he added. “Innocent people are being killed in the war on terror which the government is fighting for dollars.” The charged-up crowd then started chanting the famous slogan: “Amreeka ka jo yaar hai, ghaddar hai, ghaddar hai (Those who are friends with the US are traitors).”
The party chief also called on Zardari to “bring back his Rs1 billion from Switzerland.” He also lashed out at Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, calling him “Raja Rental” and for being the sole one responsible for the acute load -shedding in the country. “It is because of your theft and ineligibility that people are suffering.”
PTI President Makhdoom Javed Hashmi and central leader Shah Mahmood Qureshi also addressed the rally.
They said that load-shedding, corruption, inflation, unemployment and lawlessness were at its peak, but the government was not bothered to eradicate them.
Police officials present at the scene claimed that there were around 15,000-20,000 PTI activists and supporters at the rally. It was dominated by anti-US and anti-Zardari slogans, with motorists and bikers honking horns and waving party flags during the march.
At one point during the rally, the excited crowed breached the barbed wires placed at a distance from the stage, sparking panic on the stage of a possible bomb attack. Various leaders, including Shah Mahmood Qureshi left the stage, however Imran continued with his address, with police officials quickly dispersing the people involved in the breach.
The PTI chief also criticised the leader of Awami National Party (ANP), Asfandyar Wali Khan for siding with Zardari and becoming his aide in corruption. He lambasted the ANP leader for failing to end the violence against Pashtuns in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. Imran pledged that PTI would end all bloodshed in the province if he won the upcoming general elections and would strive to alleviate the misery of the people in the province.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 15th, 2012.