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LAHORE: Supporters of the PML-N filled Ravi Road as former prime minister Nawaz Sharif approached the shrine of Data Sahib to deliver the final speech of his rally on Saturday.

It was a charged crowd that defied sweltering heat and there was plenty of sentiment on display. Men and women waved the party flags and youngsters danced to the drum beats and party songs. They raised slogans in favour of Mr Sharif and against his removal, declaring him the real leader of Pakistan.

Preparations to make the rally a success had started three days ago. Those in charge had generously spent their energies and resources to decorate the venue and bring their supporters to it.

A number of PML-N supporters waited for the ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif at Shahdara and the culmination point of the rally near the shrine of Data Sahib for hours.

The show was dominated by party stalwarts such as Khawaja Saad Rafiq, Bilal Yasin and Lahore Mayor retired Col Mubashar Javaid. Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif and Balochistan Chief Minister Sanaullah Zehri made it to the venue at the eleventh hour.

The look from Shahdara, the entry point of Lahore, to the venue of Mr Sharif’s address was festive even though police and administration had forced closure of shops on both sides of the long road for security. Traffic remained thin throughout the day and was blocked as afternoon approached to clear way for Mr Sharif’s caravan that was expected to reach Lahore at night.

Both sides of the dual carriageway and the track of the metro bus in the middle were decorated with banners and flexes depicting pictures of Mr Sharif, members of his family and the PML-N ministers, assembly members or the Lahore Mayor. Searchlights and a vast sound system were visible from the shrine of Data Sahib to Ravi Road.

The swelling crowd comprised the middle class and poor people and the rich PML-N leaders who arrived there in their luxry cars.

The stage at Shahdara was set up by PML-N MNA of the area Malik Riaz. His supporters were carrying party flags, dancing to the drum beats or songs.

PML-N local leader Hashmat Shah who was leading a small group of workers said he was detailed at the Toll Plaza of Ravi Bridge to guide others to the stage. “You will see people emerge out of the streets of Shahdara as the entire constituency loves Nawaz Sharif,” he sounded confident when asked why the number of supporters was low near the stage.

Four more stages were set up en route Data Sahib’s shrine, one of which was arranged by the Markazi Jamiat Ahle Hadith in front of its head office on Ravi Road. A few workers manned them and waited for their local leaders and Mr Sharif’s convoy.

The banners and flexes lining both sides of the road depicted slogans: “Mian Tery Jan Nisar, Beshumar Beshumar (Mian you have countless supporters),” “Our love and leader, Nawaz Sharif,” “Welcome Home” “The one who lives in our hearts (Nawaz Sharif) is the real prime minister.”

Some leaders spoke on the occasion. “Why they hamper democracy when it starts delivering. Nawaz Sharif is the leader of Pakistan. He certainly is sadiq and amin and has been wrongfully disqualified,” said PML-N’s Sumeera Amjad.

Party’s Lahore General Secretary Nasim Bano said Mr Sharif’s disqualification was a great injustice with the nation. “The judiciary must review its decision otherwise the country would suffer a lot in the absence of Mr Sharif,” she said.

A group of workers brought dancing horses and there was also a display of fireworks.

Published in Dawn, August 13th, 2017

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