LAHORE: PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz Sharif and JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman left here on Friday for Gujranwala in separate caravans to address the Pakistan Democratic Movement’s maiden public meeting there.

Thousands of charged workers accompanied Maryam when she left her Jati Umra residence at 2pm after dua amid sloganeering by party workers. They were chanting slogans like ‘Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’ and ‘teri awaz, meri awaz, Maryam Nawaz,’ while raising slogans against Prime Minister Imran Khan.

Police had barricaded her route at Adda Plot but allowed her caravan to move on after a brief argument. Retired Captain Safdar, who was driving Maryam’s bullet-proof SUV, came out of it to get the route cleared.

Former Sindh governor Muhammad Zubair, who was also riding in the vehicle along with the former chairman of Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority, Absar Alam, drove the vehicle for a few minutes before Safdar reassumed his ‘duty’.

Faisal Khokhar, a son of Saiful Malook Khokhar, showered Rs100 notes and others rose petals on the SUV Maryam was travelling in. Saiful Malook himself was riding a crane and leading the rally for, what he said, clearing away the containers placed to block the road leading to Gujranwala.

Maryam’s rally took the Ring Road, which was closed to the general traffic, to reach Shahdara through the Bund Road, instead of going through downtown, particularly via The Mall, the route her father Nawaz Sharif had taken for his ‘Save Judiciary Long March’ back in March 2009. The district administration had made it clear that Maryam would be disallowed to move on if she chose to disrupt the city’s traffic, because the Ferozepur Road was also being closed to traffic for JUI-F president Maulana Fazlur Rehman’s rally to be taken out from Jamia Ashrafia at the Muslim Town Mor.

The PML-N had set up a couple of reception camps in the city to see off the caravan for Gujranwala. One was set up by Mehr Ishtiaq and others at Gulshan-i-Ravi while another other was manned by MNA Malik Riaz, MPA Samiullah Khan and Muhammad Mehdi at Shahdara.

The party had mobilised its cadre down to the union council level and those well-off were arranging transport for the people intending to attend the Gujranwala meeting. Some city traders also rented cars from private firms and arranged meals for those who wished to avail the transport facility.

MPA Bilal Yasin had brought a live tiger cub in his car. The head and front paws of the wild cat sitting on the backseat were protruding from the car window.

Maryam would wave to the workers standing along the route. She made a very brief speech at Shahdara.

Earlier, Khwaja Saad Rafiq and Sardar Ayaz Sadiq left for Gujranwala in separate rallies. Maryam tweeted a photo of Rafiq’s rally with the caption, Lohay Ka Channa, a reference to his famous statement.

Some PML-N supporters had come from abroad only to join Maryam’s rally. One of them, riding a wagon along with his family, had got written ‘Mushtanda Patwari’ on the rear windscreen of his vehicle. He said he deliberately chose the words to give the message to Prime Minister Imran Khan that the ‘hardened’ PML-N workers would now push the PTI government out.

JUI-F: Before leaving Lahore, Maulana Fazlur Rehman had a luncheon with journalists at the residence of Hafiz Asad Ubaid, a former councillor.

The hardliner opposition leader offered his Maghrib prayers on the road near the MAO College and Isha prayers at Jamiat Ahle Hadith’s centre on Ravi Road.

Malik Riaz and Bilal Yasin, as per direction of Maryam had stayed back, received the JUI-F chief at Shahdara and then accompanied him to Gujranwala.

PPP leaders Azizur Rehman Chan and Faisal Mir also staged rallies and headed for the PDM public meeting, separately.

Published in Dawn, October 17th, 2020