Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s Azadi march took the shape of a sea of people and cars meandering through the streets of Lahore on Thursday. Atop a container assembled for the march stand a pyramid of people, including Imran Khan and the party’s senior leadership with their fists in the air, signalling accomplishment.
Nearly seven hours after leaving his residence in Zaman Park, Lahore, Imran addressed his supporters and party workers at Faisal Chowk, where he demanded Prime Minister Nawaz resign before his long march caravan reached the federal capital.
“He became the prime minister in a fixed match with the help of the Election Commission, caretaker government and other major [political] players. Nawaz’s victory was unconstitutional as he snatched the public’s mandate in a massive rigging,” Imran told the throngs of people accompanying him.
The PTI chief said people were pressed under the weight of unemployment, inflation and electricity crisis. The rulers talked about breaking the begging bowl and bringing prosperity to Pakistan, but, he said, “Mian Sahib, the begging bowl will only be broken when you start paying taxes,” he added. “The PTI will deliver a new Pakistan and people will see the birth of Quaid-e-Azam’s Pakistan.”
“The end of the Sharif family’s reign is near, the monarchy of the Sharif clan will now end,” he claimed. In 1947, the people of Lahore won the match and now this match will be won in Islamabad by PTI workers, he added.
“I would not set up factories, go on foreign tours at the expense of the public and keep assets in other countries like the Sharifs, who even during a visit to India cut family business deals.”
People from Waziristan, Balochistan and Sindh are participating in this march and there is a competition between Punjab and Khyber- Pakhtunkhwa people on who will win the numbers game, Imran said proudly. “I apologise to the people of Sindh and Balochistan because I failed to mobilise people for the march in these provinces. But after this success, I will visit them shortly,” he promised. “The PTI will form a ‘Naya Pakistan’. I have no fear of the Punjab police, the Sharif brothers or the Gullu Butts.”
This was his second address of the day. Earlier, Imran spoke to his workers and supporters at his residence before they departed for the march at 12.45pm. Moments before their departure, Imran said the PTI would take back the country’s freedom from its callous rulers. “The success of the march would bring prosperity, justice and peace for the masses. The change would bring respect for Pakistan among the world’s nations.”
Imran left his residence with about 3,000 to 4,000 supporters along with Javed Hashmi, Shah Mahmood Quershi, Ejaz Chaudhary, Asad Umar and Awami Muslim League chief Sheikh Rashid. Scores of families on their luxury vehicles also accompanied the rally. Participants sang, danced, shouted slogans, with many of them waving PTI flags and donning party merchandise.
Speaking to Express News, PTI Central Information Secretary Shireen Mazari reiterated Imran’s demand for the Election Commission to resign before the rally reaches the capital. She said that Justice Wajihuddin and PTI’s legal team will explain the process of the resignations of ministers. “All those exposed for involvement in rigging will be punished.”
About their march, she said their convoys will go towards the Red Zone, and then they will decide where they will have their sit-in. Reiterating that their march is peaceful, Mazari rejected Hamza Shahbaz’s statement made earlier that the PTI has committed not to go near the Red Zone.
Over 10 hours and 30 minutes later, PTI’s long march convoys had reached Data Darbar. Addressing his workers there, Imran said, “The Sharif brothers can decide who will resign first.”
After 1am, the PTI chief had crossed the Ravi Bridge en route to their final destination, Islamabad.
PTI granted permission in Islamabad
As the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa chief minister and other senior leaders of the party entered the capital from the western side of the country, PTI activists received the much-sought No-Objection Certificate from the district administration to hold their rally at Aabpara Chowk.
Earlier, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar also permitted the PTI to hold a rally in Islamabad as long as they remain restrained to Zero Point. The interior minister visited Zero Point with the Islamabad police chief and reviewed the security arrangements there. He also asked the administration to remove containers from major roads and deploy heavy contingents of police around the capital, especially around the red zone.
Mishap and mix-up
It was reported by the media that Imran’s son, Qasim, was hit by a tree branch and fell as he was standing in the container. But later, the PTI said he was not Imran’s son but his nephew and that Imran’s sons had left for London on August 10.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 15th, 2014.