The Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) began its countrywide protest campaign against the incumbent government by holding a maiden power show in Gujranwala on Friday, which the opposition termed a “decisive referendum against the incompetent” rulers.
The PDM, comprising around a dozen opposition parties on a joint platform to get rid of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, was formed last month and had planned six big rallies across the country until December to force the government to call fresh elections.
Top leaders of all major parties, including Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Vice President Maryam Nawaz, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and PDM president and Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) chief Fazlur Rehman, were present at the gathering held at Jinnah Stadium.
Fazl was the last to reach the venue. Prior to him, Maryam reached the stadium followed by Bilawal. Deposed prime minister Nawaz Sharif also joined the rally via a video link from London, as the leaders continued their speeches.
Thousands of policemen were deployed at the venue for security reasons. The venue was decorated with flags and banners of all opposition parties, where tens of thousands of the opposition supporters were shouting “Go Imran go. Your time is up!”
In their addresses, the heads of the PDM constituent parties fired a broadside against the government and particularly made Prime Minister Imran Khan the target of their trenchant criticism, accusing him of failure in fulfilling the promises he made to the people before the 2018 elections.
Pakistan Democratic Movement Jalsa, live from Jinnah stadium Gujranwala.
Pakistan Democratic Movement Jalsa, live from Jinnah stadium Gujranwala.Posted by PML(N) on Friday, October 16, 2020
Addressing the rally from London, deposed prime minister Nawaz Sharif, continuing with his aggressive rhetoric, fired a broadside not only against the prime minister but also against the establishment for stealing public mandate.
Speaking to a jam-packed stadium, Sharif, who was the first of the main opposition leaders to address the roaring crowd, said, “This incompetent government has made lives of the masses miserable.”
“Prices of commodities like sugar and floor have doubled in just two and half years of Imran Khan’s tenure. Medicines and medical treatment is now out of the common man’s reach. But who should we hold responsibility, the incompetent bunch or the ones who brought Imran to power.”
He said that in his 35-year career, he has found the PTI to be the most corrupt government. “They were not only corrupt but also massively incompetent- who have failed on all fronts, let it be economic or diplomatic.”
He said that Imran cannot get away with billions spent on Bani Gala and Zaman Park residences just with an NRO given by former Supreme Court Chief Justice Saqib Nisar. Sharif also said that Imran will have to answer for the foreign funding case and for allowing sugar export despite its shortage.
He asked the masses as to who should be held accountable for the people’s problems, “Prime Minister Imran Khan or those who brought him” to power by “rigging” the 2018 elections. He told the people not to be afraid anymore to find out who was responsible for their problems.
The PML-N vice president in her speech referred to herself as the voice of every Pakistani, who could not speak for themselves against the ruling PTI.
“I have brought the case of labourers to you today. I have brought a case against the judiciary and media,” Maryam said, adding that the government had snatched the media’s freedom of speech.
“The media who wanted to support the truth was caught by NAB [National Accountability Bureau] or fired,” she said.
Criticising the PTI government, Maryam said that the people who do not respect vote, “their condition remains unstable”.
“When the vote is not respected, this is the condition of the people,” said the PML-N leader, pointing towards high inflation.
“Cases were lodged against us and we were threatened. The government blocked routes but it could not do anything.”
In his address, Bilawal criticised the ruling PTI, saying that the incumbent government has broken all records of corruption and demanded across-the-board accountability.
On skyrocketing inflation, the PPP chairman said, “The PTI talks about change and the change is that eggs now cost Rs200 per dozen and potatoes Rs100 per kilo.”
The JUI-F chief, also the head of the PDM, expressed serious concerns, saying that the government is talking about giving Gilgit-Baltistan a status of a province but if “we occupy G-B and forcefully making it a part of Pakistan, will that not justify the annexation of IIOJK”.
As per the Supreme Court of Azad Jammu and Kashmir, he said, G-B is a part of AJK and furthermore as per the map “we have submitted to the United Nations Security Council, G-B is a part of AJK.
“Will G-B’s annexation not violate the two Security Council resolutions?”
He said that making geographical changes has also been an America agenda that has decimated countries for not accepting their supremacy, including Afghanistan, Libya and Syria.
Other leaders, including Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Mehmood Khan Achakzai, Prof Sajid Mir, Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, said that the PTI government was responsible for the deterioration of the country’s economy that led to very difficult living conditions of the general masses.
Earlier, the workers and supporters of several opposition parties waited for their leaders’ arrival. PML-N leaders, Khawaja Asif, Khurram Dastagir, Marriyum Aurangzeb and Javed Hashmi were present there to keep the crowd buoyant.
The leaders came to Gujranwala, leading big caravans. They spoke to the media as well as party supporters on the way.
On Friday, the PDM rallies passed peacefully from Lahore. For the last few days, the Lahore police had been busy in raids to arrest the political activists. The police had also impounded dozens of containers and placed them at prominent places, mainly the surroundings of Jati Umra, the residence of the Sharif family.
However, the situation remained normal in the Punjab capital. Moreover, the arrested PML-N activists were also released after the reported negotiations and finalisation of terms and conditions with the government authorities.
In its undertaking, the PML-N affirmed that no welcome points and receptions would be set up on GT Road for security and convenience of the general public. Yet, close to a dozen welcome camps were set up from Lahore to Gujranwala that resulted in disruption of traffic on the highway.
Also, the undertaking regarding ensuring a safe distance between two seats and a safe distance even otherwise between the participants was also nowhere to be seen. Similarly, the condition of wearing face masks by the rally participants was also ignored.
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