SUPPORTERS of PDM wave party flags at the Quetta rally.—AFP
SUPPORTERS of PDM wave party flags at the Quetta rally.—AFP

• Nawaz says security establishment to account for country’s situation
• Maryam raises issue of enforced disappearances
• Fazl says ready to sit with establishment if it withdraws support to ‘selected’
• Bilawal rejects reports of rift in alliance

QUETTA: Despite repeated warnings by the Balochistan government in view of security threat, ban on mobile phone service and pillion riding, and a deadly blast on the outskirts of the provincial capital, the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) on Sunday staged a massive power show in Quetta, with its leaders declaring that the people of the southwestern province with their large turnout had given a clear message to the Centre to respect their democratic freedom.

Addressing the supporters of the 11-party alliance, who had filled the Ayub stadium football ground, from London via video link, PML-N supreme leader Nawaz Sharif said people had come out to bring change through democratic struggle launched by the PDM. “I am aware of Baloch people’s problems,” he said, adding he was aware that the missing persons issue was still there.

He strongly criticised the PTI government’s performance and referred to his disqualification as premier “over a flimsy charge” and added that he was not liked by some quarters because he was the “elected representative of the people”.

While condemning the arrest of retired Capt Mohammad Safdar, he said it was “shameful” how police officials barged into the room and violated the privacy of his daughter Maryam Nawaz and her husband. “Such shameful incidents prove my point that there is a state above the state,” he said.

“On whose order is the privacy of people violated? On whose orders are doors broken down? If even the province’s chief minister doesn’t know, then who is behind it?” he asked.

He said the PDM had risen against “unconstitutional power that made Pakistan hollow from inside and out” and said that he named individuals “as I don’t want my army to be defamed”. He called upon Army Chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa and Inter-Services Intelligence Director General Lt Gen Faiz Hameed to “account” for the country’s current situation.

“Gen Bajwa, you will have to answer for record rigging in the 2018 elections, for horse-trading in the Parliament, for making Imran Nizai prime minister against people’s wishes and by violating the Constitution, for pushing people towards poverty and hunger,” he said.

He also paid tribute to the late National Party chief Hasil Khan Bizenjo, appreciating the strong principles he stood for.

The former premier again went on to censure the incumbent government citing inflation. “I know that the current government’s ineptness and anti-people policies have made it difficult for a common man to afford two meals,” he said. “I have heard that sugar is being sold at Rs110 per kg and flour at Rs70 or more per kg,” Mr Sharif added.

The PDM leaders in their speeches vowed to continue struggle against the ‘selected government’ and for the protection of 18th constitutional amendment, recovery of missing persons and rule of law in the country.

They sought resignations of President Dr Arif Alvi and Prime Minister Imran Khan saying that they had no moral justification for them to remain in office after the Justice Isa case ruling.

The PDM public meeting, which was addressed by the leadership of opposition parties including JUI-F Maulana Fazlur Rehman and PML-N Maryam Nawaz, besides Pakistan Peoples Party chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari from Gilgit-Baltistan and former premier Nawaz Sharif from London via video link, also strongly condemned the French government for resurgence of blasphemous act of republication of caricature of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) and desecration of the Quran by ‘irresponsible’ elements in some developed countries. A resolution was also adopted at the public meeting in this regard.

In her speech, PML-N vice president Maryam Nawaz said the people of Balochistan were as dear to her as the people of Punjab. For the past 12 days, the Baloch students had been protesting on roads seeking restoration of their scholarships, but the PTI government at the Centre had not redressed their grievances, she said. The time has come to change the fate of Pakistan — and Balochistan. “No longer will husbands and brothers go missing, people of Balochistan,” she said.

Raising the issue of missing persons, Ms Nawaz said: “Three brothers of a Baloch girl, Adeeba Qambrani, had been taken away from their home years ago but their whereabouts were still not known.” She said the girl showed her their photos complaining that the three siblings were the sole bread-earners of her family. She said she could not control her emotions when the young Baloch girl narrated her ordeal. She said that those behind the enforced disappearances must realize the pain and sufferings of the families. Amid chants of ‘shame, shame, shame’, she said they believed the people of Balochistan had no right to make decisions. “A party is created overnight and the next day its leader is installed as chief minister of the province,” she regretted.

She said when they broke open the door of her hotel room in Karachi, the inhuman treatment meted out to Dr Shazia came to her mind. Recalling the killing of former governor of Balochistan Akbar Bugti, she said she remembered the statement of a dictator who had threatened him that he would be killed in a way that he wouldn’t understand what had hit him. Later, not only he was killed but his heirs were not allowed to attend his funeral, she added.

She said Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah in an address to officers at the Quetta Staff College stated that vote must be respected, abide by their oath. Policy making was not their job, but of the representatives of civilians. “Tell me if Quaid’s instruction has been followed?” she questioned if the political interference had stopped, whether the elected representatives of the people were allowed to rule, and whether the constitution was being respected.

All leaders of the PDM were raising their voice for the same cause, she explained, adding ‘respect their vote’ was the same demand that the people of Gujranwala and Karachi had been raising.

While addressing the people via video link from Gilgit-Baltistan, PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari said those were saying that the opposition’s public meeting in Karachi would fail were embarrassed. The people of Balochistan by making the PDM’s Quetta event successful had showed not only to the ‘selected’ government but also to the entire world that the people of Pakistan were on one side and the selected government was on the other.

For those still dreaming of splitting the opposition’s alliance, he said that being the chairman of the PPP he had a clear message for them that the PPP had retreated neither from the Movement for Restoration of Democracy (MRD) nor from the Alliance for Restoration of Democracy (ARD) and it would never abandon the PDM. He said the party would not step back from the PDM.

Addressing the people of Balochistan, the PPP chairman said: “Despite being the largest province of Pakistan and having rich natural resources, if it was the fate of its people to remain poor. No, never. The people of Balochistan had given their blood for their rights. The people of Balochistan can sacrifice their life but will never bow before anyone. It is not their fate that they will keep serving ‘selectors’ and the selected.” He said people of Balochistan were brave and were aware how to get their rights.

Mr Bhutto-Zardari said the people of Quetta, Karachi and Gujranwala wanted democratic freedom to live with dignity, use their resources, freedom from poverty and freedom to think. He questioned what kind of freedom it was if the people, press and judiciary were not free in a country. “To ensure that you get your right, all democratic forces are not only on one stage but on one page, and now the others would have to join them or else they will have to go home,” he warned.

He said people were being abducted in broad daylight. “This tyranny has to be stopped and if this continues to happen I don’t think this country can survive,” he said.

When PPP leader Asif Zardari became the president after dictator Gen Musharraf, he apologised to the people of Balochistan on behalf of the state as “the dictator had given nothing but mutilated bodies” to them. Dictator Musharraf got the citizens of this country kidnapped and had them sold to other countries, he regretted. Those declaring others traitors should know there was no bigger corruption than that, no bigger treason than that. “The person who got Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto assassinated by facilitating the terrorists, nobody could have held him accountable,” he remarked.

Referring to former president Zardari, the PPP chairman recalled that he gave them provincial autonomy and gave larger share in the National Finance Commission by fulfilling the promise of Bhutto. He said the Aaghaz-i-Huqooq-i-Balochistan covered oil and gas royalties, political prisoners, NFC, reconciliation, provincial autonomy under 18th Amendment, economic reforms. “We gave protection to Balochistan in NFC,” he reiterated.

If all those problems could have been taken up then, even now these could have been solved. President Zardari with the help of Chinese leadership had introduced China-Pakistan Economic Corridor in Pakistan. Uplifting the backward areas of Pakistan was the main focus of CPEC, especially for the people of Fata, Gilgit-Baltistan and Balochistan to alleviate their sense of deprivation. This would have brought prosperity to the entire country. Those who call it a game-changer today should be asked if the mega project was possible without the support of the people of Gwadar and Gilgit-Baltistan. We should be thankful to the people of Gwadar and GB. Why after all these years, the people of Gwadar and GB had started thinking the project would not benefit them. Why the local people had not been given priority in the CPEC? In Thar coal project, we ensured that 71pc jobs was given to the residents of Thar, 20pc jobs given to other people of Sindh, while the remaining 9pc jobs were offered to the people from rest of the Pakistan and other countries.

He said more people had died in the custody of NAB then in Guantanamo Bay. If the courts were to hold day-to-day hearing of NAB references, then day-to-day hearing of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Akbar Bugti cases should also be conducted.

He said the Sindh police refused to become a ‘Tiger Force of Mr Khan’. He said the prime minister was trying to turn law enforcement agencies, including ISI and Pakistan Rangers, into his Tiger Force.

JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman said the people did not accept the present ‘selected’ government that had been imposed on the nation after stealing their mandate in 2018 elections. “We have lot of love and respect for our institutions,” he said, but if someone started making fun of the people, their vote and loyalty it could damage the country. He said the democratic forces were not enemies of the state institutions, rather were imperative for the country’s progress.

He said it was their right to make complaint and protest if someone from the institution supported a ‘fake and puppet’ government and ‘impose martial law’.

The PDM president said: “We are ready to sit with the establishment if it withdraws the support of a selected government and apologize to the people for not respecting the mandate of the people in the general elections.”

While referring to the country’s economic situation, he said the incapable government brought down the GDP growth rate from 5.6 to 1.5 per cent during its two-year rule. Everyone was aware of the fact that stable economy was essential for country’s security, he said, citing the example of Soviet Union that collapsed due to economic crisis.

Instead of improving the economy, attempts were being made to curtail the autonomy of provinces, he said, adding that it was not acceptable to the people of this country. “PDM will not allow anyone to deprive the people of their rights,” he warned.

The PDM chief said Mr Khan had himself proposed to divide Kashmir region into three parts and had prayed for the success of Modi in elections. “They have sold Kashmir and they don’t give importance to the issues of Kashmiris. He claimed that due to wrong foreign policy Pakistan lost support of good friends on various issues.

BNP-Mengal president Sardar Akhtar Mengal told the public meeting that the presence of a huge crowd in the Quetta PDM public meeting had proved that the people of Balochistan were awake and rising. “When this happens, others lose sleep,” he remarked.

Mr Mengal said when the country needed blood, the people of this land were the first to volunteer. The BNP-M chief said: “This is the same Quetta that the British had called ‘Little London’... But today, it is just the sound of bombs and the smell of blood, the blood of our elders and our children.” He said this would not go on, as the country could not be turned into a lab for experiments. “Politics is not your job,” he said.

He questioned how the PTM leader Mohsin Dawar could speak on the floor of the National Assembly but not in Balochistan.

PkMAP chairman Mehmood Khan Achakzai also spoke.

Published in Dawn, October 26th, 2020