Rally in Lahore: Fiery Shahbaz sets tone for anti-govt movement

Published: October 29, 2011
Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) supporters attend a rally against President Asif Ali Zardari in Lahore. PHOTO: AFP

Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) supporters attend a rally against President Asif Ali Zardari in Lahore. PHOTO: AFP


Shahbaz Sharif addressed the Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) rally in Lahore with an unequivocal demand for President Asif Ali Zardari to resign.

(Read: PML-N rally – Go Zardari go rings out in Lahore)

The Punjab chief minister said that corruption had reached unprecedented levels and the people of Pakistan were fed up – and that his party would not rest until its ongoing movement against the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP)-led coalition government was complete.

Shahbaz was in a fiery mood as he rallied party workers. Evoking anti-government unrest in Egypt earlier this year, Shahbaz said that if Zardari failed to step down, his party would “make sure there is a Tahrir Square in every large city of the country.”

He even went as far as asking the crowd to start rationing their food, because, after Moharram, which ends in mid-December, his party would lead a nationwide protest and might have to “live on the roads.”

The PML-N, in power in Punjab but in opposition in the centre, called the protest to increase momentum for popular support for elections in 2013. Some reports have it that the party wants fresh elections before the Senate polls scheduled for March next year.

However, while PPP was the target, there are also suggestions that the rally was called suddenly to counter another rally that will be held in Lahore on Sunday by a party that is gaining tremendous traction in urban Punjab – Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf.

“Step down Zardari and hand over your money otherwise we will hang you here,” Shahbaz said, as chants of “Go Zardari, go corruption, go load shedding” echoed around the crowd.

In patches, there was a carnival feel to the protest. Workers danced to party songs, and toy lions – the PML-N’s symbol – were held aloft to cries of “Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.”

The party’s senior leadership was in attendance, but only Shahbaz delivered a speech, addressing the gathering which stretched from General Post to Bhati Chowk, a distance of almost two kilometres.

According to party sources, the opposition leader in the National Assembly, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, drafted Shahbaz’s speech and encouraged the use of derogatory words against Zardari. Shahbaz was also planning on announcing a date for mass resignations from assemblies by his party members. At the eleventh hour, however, it was decided to leave this decision to Nawaz Sharif, who will outline his party’s policy on November 3 in Faisalabad.

Shahbaz laid on the accusations thick and fast against the president.

Shahbaz pointed to the “massive attendance” as proof that the nation is ready for a showdown and will only rest after “Ali Baba and his 40 thieves” have been deposed from power.

He also defended allegations of corruption from within his own provincial government: “I will not lie that corruption still exists, but I promise you that I have eliminated corruption from the top level of the Punjab government.”

Attendance figures disputed

The PML-N had tasked MNA Hamza Shahbaz Sharif with ensuring an attendance of at least 100,000 people at the rally. Despite his efforts over the past two weeks, which included addressing up to four gatherings per day, the estimated numbers were well short of this figure.

PML-N’s MPA Rana Arshad claimed that over 90,000 turned up, while journalists were divided, with figures ranging from 30,000 to 45,000.

There were also claims that the party had attracted far fewer locals than hoped for. Although the PML-N specifically targeted the citizens of Lahore, more than 50% of participants were from outside of the city, according to some intelligence agency reports.

Government officials from the city and Punjab districts also attended the rally – though some who spoke to The Express Tribune said that they essentially had to out of fear for their jobs.

Confusion among the crowd

The rally officially got going when Hamza Shahbaz arrived at the front at 5pm, three hours later than the scheduled time. After getting into a huge truck, however, Hamza failed to attract the majority of party workers, who were waiting for Shahbaz Sharif to lead the rally.

Shahbaz, though, had other ideas, and avoided the rally procession, preferring instead to arrive at his podium from back stage. Many at the rally were not even aware that Nawaz Sharif would not deliver a speech, as he was in Turkey.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 29th, 2011.

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Reader Comments (42)

  • Tahir
    Oct 29, 2011 - 4:23AM

    I can see Humza Shahbaz Sharif is being prepared to take the throne of PML(N) family business of politics. These Bhutto’s and Shariff’s monarchys are cancers that need to be removed. October 30th will be one step closer to revolution.


  • Abdul
    Oct 29, 2011 - 4:28AM

    PMLN 30000 people with full gov machinery, This sunday PTI will have ATLEAST 100,000 , and they say Lahore is the heart of PMLN, looks like PTI is going to rip out PMLN’s heart.


  • Ahmed
    Oct 29, 2011 - 5:03AM

    PML-N showed its street power .
    Lahore belongs to PML-N.


  • Shahbaz
    Oct 29, 2011 - 5:05AM

    Lahoris prove that they are loyal to Sharif bros..


  • anonymous
    Oct 29, 2011 - 5:07AM

    good step! let’s get rid of him.


  • Huma
    Oct 29, 2011 - 5:09AM

    amazing power show by PMLN, Lahore definately belongs to Nawaz Sharif..
    IK is just mouh k fire..its not so easy to break Nawaz Sharif’s vote bank in Lahore…


  • Ali
    Oct 29, 2011 - 5:11AM

    i believe if Nawaz Sharif wud be there..tu dama dam mast qalander hota…


    Oct 29, 2011 - 5:14AM



  • Hassan
    Oct 29, 2011 - 5:21AM

    Go Zardari Go ….
    Sher is on his way now !!


  • Usman
    Oct 29, 2011 - 5:25AM

    Lahore Zindabad..
    PMLN zindabad…


  • Cautious
    Oct 29, 2011 - 5:30AM

    >“Step down Zardari and hand over your money otherwise we will hang you here,” Shahbaz said
    Doesn’t sound like something any real leader would say – just another hate speech from a professional politician pandering to an audience.Recommend

  • Ijaz Khan
    Oct 29, 2011 - 6:30AM

    Lahore say bahir kar kay dikhao rallyRecommend

  • Suleman
    Oct 29, 2011 - 6:35AM

    Lahore belongs to Mian Nawaz Sharif.


  • riz
    Oct 29, 2011 - 6:35AM

    i suppose great crowd! if rally streched about 4 km—-


  • SA
    Oct 29, 2011 - 6:57AM

    The energy sector has been mismanaged for decades, and the current problems are not of PPP’s making, so PML supporters’ chants of “no to load-shedding” are misdirected.
    Who is PML kidding when they ask for an end to corruption?
    Is it not treasonous to call for the hanging of the elected President of the country? Mr. Sharif, please do not denigrate your office by stooping so low in the name of politics.

  • zia ur rehman
    Oct 29, 2011 - 7:07AM

    even jamiat gathered more than that…lolz..


  • Khan
    Oct 29, 2011 - 7:08AM

    Lahories love PMLN…
    really Lahories prove thier loyalties with PMLN


  • Khan
    Oct 29, 2011 - 7:16AM

    Long Live Lahore
    Long Live PML-N ..


  • Sohail
    Oct 29, 2011 - 7:56AM

    where is Dharna Khan now? :D
    Lahore belongs to Mian Nawaz Sharif!


  • sara
    Oct 29, 2011 - 8:02AM

    Great show…
    go zardari go…


  • Sutan Mehood
    Oct 29, 2011 - 8:42AM

    PTI, one man show.. to be honest, one man, NO show…
    PML N did a great show.. gathered such a crowd..
    The whole speech didn’t even mention Imran Khan… Proves his importance.. oooh I am scared. lolz


  • Ch Allah Daad
    Oct 29, 2011 - 9:08AM

    I did not expect Mian Sahib would use abusive words about elected President.


  • Iftikhar-ur-Rehman
    Oct 29, 2011 - 9:11AM

    According to PML(N) 90,000 thousand turned up for this rally but except hate speech , nothing concrete was said about the problems of common people of Pakistan. What a wonderful speech by a President of one of the big political parties.!!!Recommend

  • Ali
    Oct 29, 2011 - 9:15AM

    Dear All, if Lahore belongs to Nwaz/Shahbaz why are you people frustrated, how you gathered people is an open secret, more than fifty percent people came from outside Lahore with PATWARI’S , NAZIM, It is worth mentioning they were paid or due to influnce of PATWARI or NAZIM bound to attend the show.

    Flop show, be ready PMLN, PTI will not let you sleep.


  • mansour
    Oct 29, 2011 - 9:17AM

    I thought it was a poor show with a bad speech that exposed Shahbaz as a weak man who has been burdened with a lot: dengue patients dying, rising popularity of Imran Khan, students results botched up to name a few. Imran Khan is here to stay and his rally at Minar e Pakistan will be a historic one! Lahore belongs to Imran Khan now! Recommend

  • Maher
    Oct 29, 2011 - 9:30AM

    Go ZARDARI GO, but where ?? Recommend

  • Farrukh
    Oct 29, 2011 - 9:45AM

    May their rally pass message to Zardari.
    Rally should be at ISlamabad


  • Hamid
    Oct 29, 2011 - 9:51AM

    Time to leave Mr. Zardari.


  • moeed
    Oct 29, 2011 - 9:54AM

    all you people saying different words about pml-n have they seen the fiasco with intermediate results, what abt raymond davis issue, what abt the money laundering case and hudabiya papers mills wake up people stop following the status quo and vote for change not the same family monarchies


  • gazmeer
    Oct 29, 2011 - 10:25AM

    its shameful to say its 30000.more than 30000 even gathered wen mian nawaz sharif addressed rallies in azad kashmir..its shameful to say Recommend

  • Ahmed
    Oct 29, 2011 - 10:38AM

    Though I’m not a big supporter of PPP, but I miss Taseer. Recommend

  • asif
    Oct 29, 2011 - 11:49AM

    Time for test ….of PTI


  • Haq Sach
    Oct 29, 2011 - 12:10PM

    Shahbaz and Hamza Sharif, please solve the Ayesha Ahad Case…Why are you not answering to her questions?


  • Billoo Bhaya
    Oct 29, 2011 - 12:32PM

    @Haq Sach:
    Touche, my man.


  • Abdullah
    Oct 29, 2011 - 1:01PM

    On 30 oct inshallah a historical rally willl be happen.Long live Imran khan.Recommend

  • waseem
    Oct 29, 2011 - 1:23PM

    change not come soon


  • Son of Soil
    Oct 29, 2011 - 1:41PM

    InshaAllah PTI will prove that nation is living and leaders have failed to make it zombie


  • Fasih Ali Khan
    Oct 29, 2011 - 2:39PM

    Shahbaz announced several times prior to the Rally that he’s about to share ”Alot” on the day. Was it yet again a gimmic by PML (N) to Increase the crowd. All he did was shouted usual rants by PML (N) to 30,000+ crowd (Civil Servants and some blinde Supporters).


  • Realist.
    Oct 29, 2011 - 4:19PM

    The rally was of 40k+ people.
    & they did the rally in urgency , + The NAWAZ SHARIF factor was not there in the rally because of his absence the crowd was less than what it should’ve been. The ONLY pupose of this rally was to show PTI the street power of PMLN.
    If i look at the rally through Shahbaz Sharif factor.
    it was a Great success. I guess this is the largest rally Shahbaz Sharif has ever held. Nawaz Sharif has gathered much bigger 3 to 4 times bigger crowds.
    It was a good show though!


  • Bashir
    Oct 29, 2011 - 11:37PM

    Dengue brothers.. Wasted public money


  • Sajjad
    Oct 30, 2011 - 2:54AM

    Rally for change, rally for IMRAN khan…sharifs are old fashioned and ppp have no clue what’s going on…a new way forward is the only way forward….PTI will show their imence support that will sweep the pml off their feet on the 30th oct.


  • MarkH
    Oct 30, 2011 - 8:08AM

    Pointing out that the current government has flaws is an understatement. But PML-N are being record breaking fools. If they oust the current government and intend to keep it a democracy(though it’s a stretch to call it that now anyways), the long range effects are a big deal and out of all the politicians, Nawaz should intimately know this.
    The moment PPP gets removed, you will have sealed the fate of the system to never work. It means people will find it perfectly reasonable to oust everyone even over petty disagreements. Including the ones running these very rallies to oust PPP if they come into power.
    I haven’t had all that positive opinion of MQM with those Karachi incidents factored in. But, right now, all political parties in this instance should look at MQM’s reaction as it’s the most intelligent thing to come out of Pakistani politics in a long time.
    People need to look at the whole. You’re supposed to be critical and hard to please because it keeps everyone in check when the human flaws surface. But, it’s not supposed to be personal. If you make it personal, you have automatically made it a matter of emotions rather than logic and reason which are the things most successful governments rely on using. Emotions are some of the most illogical things the planet has to offer and Pakistan itself is probably in the top 3 countries that have been effected by disasters caused by emotions running wild.
    At least make a bit of effort to learn from past mistakes from time to time. It is extremely necessary for people to be able to speak their mind in the government without fear of losing their job. They will shy away defensively from confronting important issues as a form of self preservation and their actual job description includes confronting issues.
    These rallies in the form of calling for removal of the governing body are actually crippling any chance of working together enough to tackle even just one of those demands that are being made.
    You’re digging your own graves here. (metaphorically)


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