After a massive rally in Karachi, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) on Sunday staged an impressive show of political strength in Lahore, a city considered as a bastion of power of its main political nemesis, the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N).
“Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif will not be able to rule now as the ‘Go Nawaz, Go’ chant will chase him wherever he goes,” PTI chairman Imran Khan told hundreds of thousands of his frenzied supporters in the shadow of Minar-e-Pakistan. It was a carnival atmosphere as men, women and children, waving party flags and donning party colour caps, sang and danced to songs.
“This slogan will not let him sleep,” he said, adding that one day someone from the prime minister’s own household would shout ‘Go Nawaz, Go’. Since August 14, Imran has been leading a street campaign for an audit of the 2013 elections which, he alleges, were massively rigged in favour of the PML-N. “Justice cannot be served so long as Nawaz Sharif is in power,” he said.
Imran renewed his demand for the prime minister to step down, appoint someone to step into his shoes and order an independent inquiry into the rigging allegations. The PTI chairman said he would not end the Islamabad sit-in, which started on August 16, until the prime minister resigned.
“If the inquiry proves me wrong, I will apologise. But if it confirms our allegations, then all who rigged the elections, their facilitators and abettors will face cases under Article 6 of Constitution,” he said.
Imran said that after 18 years of political struggle he was happy to see that the Pakistani nation has awakened. “I haven’t seen a bigger rally than this. I challenge Nawaz Sharif to gather even 10 per cent of the crowd present here,” Imran said as the charged crowd shouted ‘Go Nawaz, Go’.
He vowed no let-up in his anti-government campaign, saying that he would stage the next rally in his hometown of Mianwali on Thursday, followed by another one in Multan.
The PTI chairman said the Nawaz government had increased electricity tariffs by up to 80%in one year and charged consumers Rs70 billion in inflated bills. “If you pay your electricity bills, the prices will go further up in next two months. Don’t pay your bills. I have burnt my bills as well,” Imran told his supporters.
About the alleged rigging in the 2013 elections, the PTI chairman said the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) had yet not published ‘Form 14’, which presiding officers submit to returning officers (ROs), on its website “This means the ROs issued results without counting the ballots. If the ECP doesn’t upload Form 14 on the website, we will believe that the ECP was also involved in the rigging,” he added.
Imran said Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Co-Chairman Asif Zardari and Nawaz Sharif had a secret agreement whereby they support each other on the pretext of saving democracy. “We are happy that the joint session of Parliament was convened. Now, the whole Pakistan knows who stands with whom,” he added.
The PTI leader said that his Islamabad dharna had achievements to its credit, including registration of a criminal case against the prime minister. “The Supreme Court has also admitted petitions seeking disqualification of Nawaz Sharif for lying to the parliament,” he added.
Highlighting his vision of ‘Naya Pakistan’, Imran said a PTI government would focus on three areas: justice, education and humanity.
“We will introduce the same education system for the whole country. Currently, 800,000 children go to English-medium schools, 30 million to Urdu-medium schools and two million get education at Islamic seminaries.” He also vowed to turn governor and chief minister houses into libraries, ensure austerity and run the government with simplicity.
Earlier, PTI Vice Chairman Shah Mahmood Qureshi, other leaders of the party and Awami Muslim League chief Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed also addressed the rally.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 29th, 2014.