• Nawaz takes potshots at security establishment, blames it for his ouster
• Bilawal sees ‘in-house’ change
• Respect public mandate, says Maryam
• Ex-PM Abbasi slams hike in power, gas tariff, food prices
• Ministers term Gujranwala event a ‘failed show’
GUJRANWALA: The 11-party Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) sounded the war drums and vowed a dislodging of the government inside weeks during an impressive show of strength in Gujranwala on Friday.
The PDM leaders declared the first public meeting of the opposition protest campaign as a public referendum against the “selected and incapable” Imran Khan government.
The rally was addressed by the PDM top tier including Maulana Fazlur Rehman, Maryam Nawaz, Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, Mahmood Achakzai and many others. It was the focus of attention of not just Pakistani stakeholders but also interested foreign observers since it was to set the tone for the entire opposition campaign.
It was expected to be a Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz show since Gujranwala is a party stronghold. True to the billing, it was Mian Nawaz Sharif who provided the fireworks at the rally with his speech relayed directly from London.
Mr Sharif reiterated his resolve to change the system, and target those who operated from behind the curtains. He alleged that the establishment had ended his government. Later, the general elections were rigged and the ‘incompetent’ Khan was imposed on the nation, he said. They would have to answer for all this, he remarked. He was less symbolic, more frank and visibly angry in his expression. He also talked about inflation and other issues the average Pakistani is faced with, but his real theme was the release of civilian rulers from the alleged bondage.
His daughter was comparatively more controlled and composed in her address, beholden perhaps to her responsibility as the leader in charge of the League.
Ms Nawaz took Prime Minister Imran Khan to task over his policies. She spoke to a jam-packed Jinnah Stadium that prompted calls from stage for Information Minister Shibli Fraz to resign as he had given challenge to the opposition to fill the stadium.
Also speaking in Punjabi, the PML-N leader said Imran Niazi would not be given NRO. “Imran Niazi... you want to go on your own or the people throw you out. Now you will not get shelter in any shelter house,” she remarked.
She said these people called the Sharif family Sicilian mafia but in actual they were the mafia who made profits on sugar and flour. “Imran had imposed curbs on media and once it would be free his corruption stories would come out,” she said, adding that public mandate must be respected.
She also questioned why no one was ready to even question Asim Bajwa about his companies. “This corrupt man has the important slot of CPEC,” she remarked.
The Pakistan Peoples Party chairman said Imran Khan had only one solution to all the problems of this nation and that was his ‘tiger’ force. “This man has broken all records of corruption. The PTI’s own founding member revealed that Israel and India had funded the Imran Khan’s party but no one was willing to look into this allegation,” he said.
Mr Bhutto-Zardari said this incompetent Niazi could not unite the Muslim world on Kashmir, as he had attempted to sell it to Modi. “Puppet and selected Niazi will remain silent but we will not be quiet on the issue of Kashmir,” he said.
Chiding Mr Khan for calling himself ‘democracy’, the PPP chairman said: “I tell you, Imran Niazi, that you are but a puppet and selected.” He said the selectors would have to realize this pattern of making government of puppets. “In Karachi on Oct 18 we will throw a challenge to the selected and the selectors,” the PPP leader remarked.
Maulana Fazl, who arrived late at the venue, said the tiding sea of people in Gujranwala would oust the ‘fake’ government. “In coming days the fake rulers will meet their fate,” he said, declaring that the PTI government would not see coming December. “By the will of Allah this government will not see this December,” the Maulana said.
He said why they were asked not to take the selector’s name. They would be exposed, because they attempted to “slaughter democracy” in public and imposed a puppet against the wishes of the people.
Earlier, the government ministers in TV shows declared it a failed show. They said it was a small crowd, considering that it was with the collective effort of no less than 11 political parties that the people gathered in Gujranwala.
As debate about the numbers continued, there was no mistaking what chants were all about. The stadium echoed with the loud slogans of ‘Go’ every time a speaker took the rostrum.
The leadership of all the mainstream opposition parties, Jamiat Uleman-i-Islam (JUI-F) president Maulana Fazlur Rehman, PML-N’s Maryam Nawaz and PPP’s Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari arrived Gujranwala late evening after spending several hours on road. Both the Maulana and Maryam-led rallies came from Lahore while Bilawal came along with jiyalas from Lala Musa, Gujrat.
Former premier Shahid Khaqan Abbasi asked Imran Khan to tell the people gathered here why electricity, gas and flour, sugar prices increased manifold. “Our narrative is to give respect to the ballot...whosoever has the people’s mandate should be allowed to serve them,” he said.
Balochistan Awami Party’s Abdul Malik and ANP’s Mian Iftikhar, Mahmood Achakzai and Javed Hashmi also spoke.
While speaking at a press conference at Lala Musa, the PPP chairman passed remarks indicating the difficulties the alliance could face in keeping in view the difference of opinion between parties within on various issues.
Mr Bhutto-Zardari hinted that his party was not in favour of resigning from the assemblies. “We can go for an in-house change,” he said when a journalist asked him whom did the PDM want to negotiate with over the question of dislodging the Imran government.
Earlier, PMLN’s Khawaja Asif had categorically declared the PML-N lawmakers would resign before the Senate polls in March 2021.
Published in Dawn, October 17th, 2020