KARACHI: MQM - in a tit for tat move and in an attempt to strengthen the vulnerable alliance with PPP - carried out a massive rally against PML-N in Karachi on Sunday.
Two days after the PML-N showed the government its street power in Lahore, the MQM brought thousands of people out on the roads.
Addressing the rally via telephone, MQM chief Altaf Hussain condemned the derogatory remarks used by Punjab Chief minister Shahbaz Sharif against President Zardari. He said MQM is united against all conspiracies being hatched against democracy.
The MQM chief also challenged Sharif brothers to take out such a massive rally in Karachi to show its roots among the masses.
He also ruled out mid-term elections, saying that PML-N will have to wait till the next elections as the PPP government will complete its tenure.
MQM workers from across the city converged on MA Jinnah Road to make the show a success. The rally had the theme called 'Strengthen Democracy' and the entire route was decorated with MQM and national flags.
MQM and PPP leaders had been appearing on media since morning to condemn what they called Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif's derogatory remarks against President Zardari.
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"Hum latkanay ki baat nahi karte hum zaban se baat karte hain" says Altaf Hussain.
The MQM chief adds:
"These [Sharif brothers] people run away to Jeddah. There's talk of hanging people upside down. When the Sharif brothers were in jail, sounds of crying could be heard from their cells. Zardari bore his 11-year sentence like a man."
MQM chief condemns Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif for using derogatory language against President Zardari.
"We [MQM] can speak the same language too" says Altaf.
In response to PML-N's calls for "Go Zardari Go", MQM's Altaf Hussain says "No Sharif baradraan (brothers) No".
"I tell PML-N to wait for the elections and participate and come to power democratically. But we will not allow undemocratic actions" says Altaf.
The MQM chief adds that the nation is united in strengthening democracy.
MQM leaders as well as those of other political parties have repeatedly said how this rally was organised within 40 hours.
MQM chief Altaf Hussain begins his address.
The party's song "Saathi" preceded the speech as thousands of supporters sang along and waved MQM flags
PML-Q leaders Halim Adil Shaikh and Shehryar Mahar are also at the rally. Shaikh, addressing the rally says, the PML-N is destined to fail.
In their speeches, PPP leaders Agha Siraj Durrani and Pir Mazharul Haq criticise Shahbaz Sharif and his use of derogatory language against President Zardari, our correspondent Saba Imtiaz reported.
They also invoked memories of the treatment of the PPP in the 1990s during PML-N's terms in power.
MQM's Faisal Subzwari says they're expecting hundreds of thousands - current crowd is about 35% as buses still arriving.
Agha Siraj Durrani addresses the gathering:
Saba_Imtiaz - So Agha Siraj Durrani couldn't get the crowd to respond to cheers of Jiye Bhutto. Jiye Altaf gets a resounding echo. #mqm
Saba_Imtiaz Agha Siraj Durrani reminiscing about time spent with Shahbaz Sharif in Landhi jail. #mqm #ppp
PPP leaders Prof ND Khan, Taj Haider, Agha Siraj Durrani, Pir Mazharul Haq, Sharmila Faruqi, Najmi Alam, Waqar Mehdi have arrived at the MQM rally, says our correspondent Saba Imtiaz.
Prof ND Khan is addressing the rally.
Haider Abbas Rizvi, Dr Sagheer Ahmed, Faisal Subzwari, Anis Qaimkhani, Nasreen Jalil are also present at the growing rally say correspondent Saba Imtiaz.
Provincial Minister Raza Haroon while talking to the media said that the MQM is holding a protest rally as it strongly detests derogatory remarks used for President Zardari by Pakistan Muslim League.
According to our correspondent Saba Imtiaz, the crowd already appears several thousands strong.
There are fairly strict security arrangements in place, with the police, Rangers and MQM's own volunteers managing the flow of people.
Party leaders Dr Farooq Sattar, Waseem Akhtar, Mustafa Kamal, Raza Haroon, Wasay Jalil and Rauf Siddiqui are at the rally along with members of the clergy and representatives of minority faiths.
The arrangements of the rally have been finalised as party chief Altaf Hussain is scheduled to address a huge crowd at Tibet Centre in the afternoon.
The route of the rally – which has been entitled as 'Stabilising Democracy' – is decorated with MQM and national flags. Tight security arrangements are in place to avoid any untoward incident.
Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz rallied against the PPP and President Asif Ali Zardari on Friday in Lahore. In a political rebuke to PML-N, the MQM announced it would hold a “protest rally against the derogatory language used against President Zardari by the PML-N leaders” in Karachi.
Earlier, the ban imposed in Sindh on public rallies and processions was lifted for two days after a notification of one-month extension of the ban was imposed so that the MQM can express solidarity with the president and protest the use of unparliamentary language against the president by Shahbaz Sharif during his speech on Friday.