PML-N vice-president Maryam Nawaz on Sunday lashed out at Prime Minister Imran Khan and the PTI government for what she claimed as tarnishing the army's image by using it to hide [their] own failures.
“When you are pressed for answers, you hide behind the armed forces. You coward! You bring the army into disrepute. You use them [army] to hide your own failures. Who gave you this right?” she asked the premier, questioning if the army belonged to the premier or the PTI alone?
Maryam was addressing a charged crowd of thousands at the second power show of 11-party opposition alliance Pakistan Democratic Movement in Karachi, hosted by the Pakistan Peoples Party.
PPP chief Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, PML-N vice presidents Maryam Nawaz and Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman and Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party chairman Mehmood Achakzai, among other leaders, addressed the audience at the event that lasted over five hours.
As the leaders reached the venue, thousands of supporters of the opposition parties welcomed them, dancing to the beat of PPP’s anthem.
The crowd waved flags of the various political parties represented by the PDM. Bilawal thanked the enthusiastic crowd and welcomed the JUI-F chief and PML-N vice president.
Addressing the rally later in the evening, PML-N vice-president Maryam Nawaz thanked the PPP leadership and people of Karachi for according her a warm welcome. She also paid tribute to the provincial government for their efforts amid the Covid-19 pandemic, for which she said they were subjected to humiliation and taunts by the federal government.
She then directed her tirade at Prime Minister Imran, who a day earlier had declared that he would get “tougher” with the opposition and vowed to start making all-out efforts to bring Nawaz Sharif back to the country and send him behind bars.
“Yesterday, you must have seen on your TV screens a man screaming his defeat,” she told the crowd. “You [PM Imran] tell people ‘ghabrana nai hai’, there has only been one jalsa yet and you are worrying already.”
“Your fear was apparent from every word, every action of yours, and people want to see this fear on your face,” she told the premier. “If you don’t know how to show grace and have no one to teach you, you should've learned from Nawaz Sharif,” she said, reminding the premier of the PTI’s 126-day sit-in on Shahrah-e-Dastoor.
“You [PM Imran] addressed empty chairs, dug democracy's grave, [and yet] Nawaz Sharif never took your name. Even today, you will long for it but Nawaz Sharif will not even take your name, because children have no role in the fight between elders,” she said.
The PML-N vice-president then went on to address the controversy surrounding Nawaz's speeches in which he has accused the security establishment of orchestrating the ouster of his government. “They are flustered by Nawaz's speech, which by the way was banned from TV,” she said. “When you didn’t allow his speech to be aired, you have no right to comment on it. When it was not aired, where did you watch it?” she asked.
Justifying the points raised by Nawaz, Maryam questioned why it was wrong for the PML-N supremo to say that Justice Shaukat Aziz and Justice Qazi Faez Isa should not be punished for following the law.
“You say we will ban PML-N. Don’t even think about it,” she warned. “This is PML-N, the biggest party of Pakistan. This isn’t PTI that can be banned by some General Pasha or PML-Q that was created by Musharraf,” she said.
“If you ban PML-N, you will have to ban Pakistan's masses as well. It is not just a party, it is the identity of millions of people.”
Maryam also took the premier and other government ministers to task for declaring the opposition leaders traitors. “When answers are demanded, you say we are traitors,” she said, adding that Fatima Jinnah, the founder's sister, was also declared a traitor. “So don’t scare us [by declaring us] traitors.”
“You say the opposition is speaking Modi's language, when it was you prayed for Modi's re-election, were dying to talk to him, gave him Kashmir on a plate […] and we are the one speaking his language?
“What Nawaz did is draw a line between the institution and characters,” she said. “Those soldiers who sacrificed their lives, Nawaz salutes them, Maryam Nawaz salutes them, we all salute them. Remember this — one or two personalities are not the entire institution, but one or two people can defame the entire institution, and when they take cover of that institution, they cause heavy losses to that institution.”
“We can’t respect those who violate their oaths,” said Maryam. “Is Nawaz wrong in saying that army shouldn’t interfere in politics?” she questioned.
'PDM wants real democracy'
Bilawal, in his speech, lashed out at Prime Minister Imran for “betraying” the people of Karachi. “You must have heard of the Rs1000 billion,” he said. “Out of that Rs300b is from Sindh’s ADP (Annual Development Programme) and Rs100b is from the ongoing projects from the tenures of [former president] Zardari and [former prime minister] Nawaz Sharif,” he claimed.
“They promulgate ordinances under the cover of the night to usurp Balochistan and Sindh's islands,” he said, referring to the Pakistan Island Development Authority. “I demand this be withdrawn,” he said, urging his party’s senators to pass a resolution against it in the next Senate session scheduled for Wednesday.
Bilawal then went on to question the PTI’s government’s strategy on Kashmir, accusing it of weakening Pakistan’s position through its policies. “He [PM Imran] claimed to be the ambassador of Kashmiris, but now he has become the lawyer of Kulbhushan [Jadhav]. He [PM Imran] has done a deal on Kashmir,” he alleged, adding that the rise of fascism in the country had weakened its stance on Kashmir and Modi.
“This incapable and clueless prime minister will have to go home,” said Bilawal. “Today, innocent people are being killed, going missing and our state is involved in this,” he alleged. “Education, health budgets are being cut but this puppet government doesn’t care because it didn’t come from people's votes.”
The PPP chairperson alleged that neither did Prime Minister Imran acknowledge the parliament, nor could he see the hunger and tears of people. “And he claims to be [the torch-bearer of] democracy?” he questioned. “A one-man government is a contradiction of democracy. The public will ruin this man's arrogance,” he said. “He should remember the dictators who came before him.”
Bilawal said that history proved that the biggest dictators couldn’t survive. “What standing does this puppet have?” he questioned. “This is not a new fight but this will be a decisive fight,” he said.
“Today, we are fighting the same powers who want shut down the poor's stove, who want to imprison people who ask for their rights, who come to power not through people's votes but through non-democratic forces. Once again these forces are uniting and we have to fight them, we have to fight them everywhere, in parliament, in the streets, even in prison,” said Bilawal.
“If they don’t let us speak in parliament, we will go out on the streets. How many people will you jail?” he questioned. “Has anyone ever succeeded in locking up a sea?” he asked the crowd.
Summing up his speech, Bialwal said what the PDM wanted was “real democracy”.
“Where governments are made by people's votes and not selectors.”
'Citizens, not slaves'
MNA and Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM) leader Mohsin Dawar, who was one of the first speakers at the rally, termed the PDM a "beginning for real democracy and civilian supremacy" in the country. He criticised the incumbent government for filing "baseless cases" against political workers, whether they were from Waziristan, Gilgit Baltistan, Balochistan or Sindh. The cases, Dawar said, were filed due to political differences, adding that the current regime was "worse than a dictatorship".
"I consider this government to be worse than a dictatorship because they have even placed a prime minister as a punching bag. In reality, the decision makers are Pakistan Army and its agencies," he declared.
"I want to say that states cannot run through war franchises or war contracts," Dawar said. "In order to run a state, you will have to make its people realise that they are citizens of that state, not its slaves. In order to run a state you will have to transfer power to the civilians otherwise, in my opinion, this company cannot function."
Dawar had arrived in Karachi earlier today along with supporters and workers of the PTM to attend the rally. The PTM leader said that PPP chief Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari had invited him to attend the public meeting.
He had not attended the first rally of the opposition alliance.
Awami National Party’s Ameer Haider Khan Hoti took the PTI government to task over rising inflation and cost of living. “Imran 'selected' Khan, ask the poor what happens when their electricity bills come, the price of food commodities, how they are buying medicines,” he said.
“I want to ask you where are those 1 crore jobs of yours? You talked about 1 crore jobs and 50 lac houses. And what came of it? Buffaloes, goats, eggs,” he quipped.
The ANP leader went on to say that the PDM’s aim was not to seek an NRO, as has been repeatedly claimed by government minsters, but “to look for solutions to problems such as the economy, the NFC award, protection of the 18th amendment, powers of institutions, protection of the Constitution and most of all the supremacy of parliament.”
Speaking next, Mehmood Khan Achakzai of the Pashtunkhwa Milli Awami Party, said that they (opposition parties) hadn’t come to hurl obscenities at people. “We made the PDM with a lot of thought. This convoy has set out to make a new Pakistan — a Pakistan that was dreamed of by the person whose tomb is nearby,” he said, referring to the Quaid's mausoleum.
Giving a lesson on Pakistan’s history to the charged crowd, Achakzai said that Pakistan was meant to be a fort. “The state was supposed to be a Muslim state, where there would be justice, where power would rest with parliament, where the Constitution would be supreme and people would be independent.”
The PkMAP leader then took a swipe at the government’s accusations regarding the PDM bringing state institutions into disrepute. “We are being told not to talk about institutions. That man is saying this country is safe because our army is strong and is protecting us,” he said. “Do you think the US is being upheld by Trump, Russia by Putin, Germany by that woman [Angela Merkel]? It is their army [that is protecting them]? This is not a favour, it is their duty to protect the country,” he said.
"We have no issues with institutions, but when a person from that institution hangs an elected premier, shouldn’t we take his name?” he questioned, adding that Article 6 of the Constitution stated that anyone who violates the Constitution is a traitor and so is anyone who supports them.
"We are not mad. We don't want to disrespect our forces," he said, adding however, that the security forces must stay within their constitutional ambit. "They (security forces) will have to give us their word that they will stay within the ambit of the Constitution."
Stepping up to the podium next, Balochistan National Party-Mengal’s Akhtar Mengal started off his speech by welcoming the PDM’s leadership to the ‘lane of traitors’. “Traitor certificates for us, the followers of Bacha Khan, were issued in 1947. Our certificates are so old, they are moth-eaten by now. Yours are new, so I welcome you,” he quipped, adding that whenever someone comes into power, the opposition and those who struggle for their rights are called traitors.
“After all these rallies, so many supporters of their leaders will be declared traitors. Who will remain a patriot here?” he questioned, before answering himself. “Only those who labelled Mohtarma Fatima Jinnah a traitor, who opposed the reversal of one unit and started movements against it, those who always licked the boots of military dictators.”
The BNP-M leader then questioned why Pakistan was created. “Was this country made for us, or for DHA?” he quipped. “Is it made for those who live in this country or for cantonments, for the public or for the pizza guys?” he continued.
“The other day, a TV channel said that participants of the Gujranwala rally were given qeema naan. I would request Bilawal and Maryam to order Papa John's pizza next time.
“You violate a traffic signal, you are slapped with a challan, break a pot on the street, there will be a case. Have you seen a single case against those who violated the Constitution?” he asked. "Ayub, Zia and Musharraf are called Ghazi, while we are termed traitors,” he lamented.
JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman also addressed the rally.
Maryam's maiden public appearance in Karachi
Maryam arrived in Karachi on Sunday afternoon and was welcomed at the airport by a large number of party workers.
This was her first public appearance in the metropolis. After leaving the airport, Maryam visited the Quaid’s mausoleum to offer Fateha. She was accompanied by former Sindh governor and PML-N leader Mohammad Zubair as well as Captain retired Muhammad Safdar, party spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb and former premier Shahid Khaqan Abbasi.
Speaking to a private news channel as she left her hotel, Maryam said she was "grateful" for the enthusiastic welcome she had received in Karachi.
The PML-N vice president said that PDM's primary aim was to restore the sanctity of the masses' vote which was "stolen" in the 2018 general elections.
"The public is now ahead of us. We (opposition) have gotten late in representing the masses but now we have gathered at the PDM platform," she said.
Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif did not address the rally today. In his speech at the Gujranwala public meeting on Friday via video link from London, Nawaz had accused Army Chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa and ISI chief Lt Gen Faiz Hameed of being behind his ouster as prime minister and of "bringing Imran Khan into power", among other things.
Hitting back at his political opponents a day after their power show in Gujranwala, a furious Prime Minister Imran Khan declared that he would get “tougher” with them and vowed to start making all-out efforts to bring Nawaz Sharif back to the country and send him behind bars.
“Come back and see where I put you [Nawaz Sharif],” said the prime minister touching his chin as a gesture and challenging the deposed prime minister to return to the country.
Strict security measures
Heavy contingents of police had been deployed across the route of the rally. According to a statement by Karachi police, about 3,740 officials were deployed along with 30 senior officials and 65 deputy superintendents of police to ensure fool proof security.
Around 112 female officials of the special security unit had also been posted in different spots and 284 commandoes of the SSU were to be present at the venue.
Since several roads and main thoroughfares were blocked due to the rally, Karachi police had marked alternative traffic routes to facilitate residents.
Furthermore, 159 officials of the Rapid Response Force were also been deployed to provide security.
Addressing the media at the venue before the event started, Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah said that the government had taken all necessary measures to ensure that health guidelines laid out to curb the spread of Covid-19 were observed during the rally.
Though masks had been made available at the venue, few people were seen wearing them.
Speaking in Multan on Sunday, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said a government that has been elected into power, cannot be sent packing just because the opposition wanted it gone.
"This alliance, called PDM, is a temporary alliance. People consider it to be an unnatural alliance. Why unnatural? Because this movement does not have one flag, one leader or one ideology.
"Multiple people have gathered out of fear; fear of their own doing, of their incompetence, of the cases against them which could reach a conclusion soon [...] of their political trajectory."
He also pointed to friction among the parties saying at the Gujranwala rally, when on stage there were chants of 'Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif', there was silence among PPP supporters in the crowd.
He also called on Bilawal to look inward before dishing out criticism, saying his party has ruled Sindh for 12 consecutive years now. "How long will you get votes on behalf of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Benazir Bhutto?"