ISLAMABAD: As the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf and Pakistan Awami Tehreek’s anti-government protests entered their second week running, leaders of both parties asked their supporters to renew their vows to remain at the sit-in until their demands were met.
PTI chief Imran Khan, addressing the rally on Friday evening, asked supporters, “Are you tired? Do you want to leave?” Upon hearing a chorus of ‘No’, Mr Khan appeared satisfied, saying, “We will stay here until our demands are accepted”.
Dr Tahirul Qadri also re-administered an oath of loyalty to his followers after they offered Friday prayers on Constitution Avenue.
Imran praises supporters practising civil disobedience; Qadri leads Friday prayers on Constitution Avenue; CDA accused of providing contaminated water to participants of sit-ins
“I will not put my followers through further hardships. The hour of success is at hand,” he announced during his subsequent sermon.
Although he spoke for an uncharacteristically short time on Friday, Mr Khan lauded his supporters for pursuing civil disobedience by refusing to pay general sales tax (GST), toll tax on motorways or utility bills.
“I congratulate you all for standing up for your constitutional right to select your own leaders through elections,” Mr Khan said.
Addressing Nawaz Sharif, he said his supporters would not pay taxes until he stepped down as prime minister. “I will free this country of autocracy or die trying,” he declared.
He said PTI was ready to announce re-elections in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and that the prime minister should announce a countrywide re-election and let the people decide.
He called upon all Pakistanis to not let this opportunity go to waste and said “real power lies with the people”.
“As long as the youth does not come to the frontlines, Pakistan cannot progress. We need an educated, talented and youthful leadership to ensure our prosperity,” he told the crowd.
Constitution Avenue witnessed a rare sight as a massive congregation offered prayers on the road, led by Dr Qadri.
In his sermon, he reiterated his demands and said that Prime Minister Sharif and Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif’s names should be added to the Exit Control List (ECL) to ensure they were not able to escape the country.
He accused the government of not being serious in efforts to resolve the impasse through dialogue.
The protesting parties also accused the government of providing unsafe water to participants of the sit-in and claimed that several people had been taken ill after drinking the contaminated water.
Several announcements were made in both camps during the day, warning workers against drinking water from Capital Development Authority tankers at D-Chowk.
“Find out who brought these tankers to the sit-in area and the CDA officials who sent them,” Mr Khan ordered his workers.
Dr Qadri too said that at least eight PAT workers had to be hospitalised after drinking the unsafe water.
Published in Dawn, August 23rd, 2014