LAHORE: Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) supporters gave Makhdoom Javed Hashmi a warm welcome into the city on Sunday as he arrived in a large convoy from Multan in a symbolic journey to challenge the dominance of his former party, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, in Punjab.
Hashmi criticised the PML-N for reportedly negotiating with the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) over Senate seats, saying the party was making a deal with a corrupt and incompetent government.
Hashmi was making his first appearance in Lahore since joining the PTI in Karachi on December 25. He set out for Lahore by road in the morning and was welcomed at Thokar Niaz Baig at 3pm by the PTI’s youth wing, traders wing, labour wing and women’s wing. It took him another six hours to cover the 15 kilometres form Thokar Niaz Baig to Data Darbar, as he was cheered on and mobbed at various welcome camps.
PTI Lahore President Mian Mehmoodur Rashid led the chorus of cheering supporters and announced that Hashmi would stand in the next general elections from Lahore. The supporters cheered when he predicted that Hashmi would win his seat with a margin of over 100,000 votes.
Addressing the crowd in front of Data Darbar, Hashmi slammed his former party. He said that while the country was suffering from unemployment, corruption and lawlessness – thanks to Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and President Asif Ali Zardari – the PML-N was negotiating with them over the distribution of Senate seats.
He said Zardari and Gilani were “the biggest thieves” and they did not respect the judiciary. “Sadly, despite knowing all this, the PML-N’s leadership is about to strike a deal over Senate seats,” he said.
He said he had been loyal to the PML-N for a long time, but was forced to quit when the party failed to deliver on its promises of good governance and poverty alleviation and instead decided to join hands with the PPP.
Hashmi said that even if all the Muslim League factions and the PPP united for the next elections, they would be swept away by the PTI ‘tsunami’. He said that he had always served Lahore. “When the holders of Takht-i-Lahore [Throne of Lahore] fled the country, I stayed to preserve the party’s vote bank. For this, I was put behind bars,” he said.
Hashmi said that he had never flattered his leaders, but always put forth his views. He said that he used to think he alone was a rebel, but seeing the turnout, it seemed the entire city was rebelling against the PML-N.
The PTI leader also criticised US drone attacks, the imprisonment of Pakistani scientist Aafia Siddiqui in the United States and rich politicians. He said if one listed the 10 biggest politicians in Pakistan, one would note that all of them had become richer in recent years. “Imran Khan is just a simple politician, he does not own any textile mills,” he said.
The route of the convoy was decorated with banners and posters of Imran Khan and Hashmi. They bore slogans like ‘Nawaz Sharif al wida, al wida, Baghi aa raha hay’ (Farewell Nawaz Sharif, The Rebel is coming).
Published in The Express Tribune, January 30th, 2012.