• Aseefa makes political debut • Maryam assails ‘two selectors’
MULTAN: Buoyant over the ‘success’ of its public meeting here on Monday despite hurdles created by the government, the Pakistan Democratic Movement pledged to hold a bigger show in Lahore on Dec 13 by mobilising its workers across the country, ahead of its planned march on Islamabad next month to oust the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf government.
The local administration lifted some of the blockades a couple of hours before the evening and allowed the PDM to hold its rally at Ghanta Ghar Chowk, instead of Qasim Bagh Stadium venue sought by the opposition.
The Punjab government’s strategy was questioned by federal ministers Fawad Chaudhry and Faisal Vawda (at ARY and Aaj TV programmes) who said arrests and barricades during the last three days had given the PDM more media hype and the end result was that the opposition had managed to hold its show. The provincial government had adopted the same strategy during the first PDM public meeting in Gujranwala to restrict participation.
Demanding resignation of Prime Minister Imran Khan, PDM chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman said they would not sit idle until the prime minister quit.
Addressing the rally which coincided with the foundation day of the Pakistan Peoples Party, the Maulana said that since last week the government was using negative tactics against the PDM by blocking roads and arresting opposition party workers.
“Even the sons of former prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani were arrested and tortured, but during my press conference yesterday, I showed a baton [to the government] which worked and the government [functionaries] escaped. This shows how ‘powerful’ they are,” he quipped.
“He [Imran] seems irrelevant to each issue of the country and is visiting ISI offices and cantonments to prove that he is safe, but in fact he is not safe. We forced you to escape from Multan today and tomorrow we will force you to leave the government,” he said.
The JUI chief announced that demonstrations would be held at the district level across the country on the coming Friday and Sunday in protest against the arrest of PDM workers and blocking roads leading to Multan’s public meeting venue.
“Now we will be face to face in Lahore on December 13, which will prove the last nail [in the government’s coffin], from where we will chase them to Islamabad. Until he [prime minister] leaves the country, neither we nor the masses will sit idle,” the Maulana said.
He reiterated the allegation that the government had come to power through a rigged election and destroyed the country’s economy, besides giving it a failed foreign policy and compromising on the Kashmir issue. “If we will not organise public meetings, then who will become the voice of the masses. We came in the field representing the nation,” the PDM convener said, while announcing that the agitation would be intensified.
“Now we are going to organise protests across the country on Friday and Sunday. Stop it if you can. We want to move forward carefully to return the right of vote to the nation and to restore the dignity of vote. Don’t take our gentleness for our weakness. Don’t underestimate us, we can go beyond this. We also want strengthening of establishment, but if the establishment weakens us, we will not let it do this,” he said.
PML-N vice president Maryam Nawaz said she had decided to reach Multan even if no public meeting was allowed at the stadium. “It is unfortunate that our enemy is very cheap. I went to [PDM] public gathering in Peshawar when my grandmother died. The phone service was suspended and my family was trying to contact me to inform me about her death. The government did not bother to inform me about the death of my grandmother despite the fact that it was aware of it,” she said.
Referring to her father, she said as an elected prime minister in exile he was not allowed to attend the funeral of his father, and then he was not allowed to attend the burial ceremony of his mother. She said the family of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was not allowed to attend his funeral. The same was done to the family of Nawab Akbar Bugti, she added.
“Why all this happened only to the elected representatives of the masses? Why Gen Musharraf was not put behind bars for a single day and was allowed to escape to London overnight. Why any court has no power to bring him back?” she questioned.
She lambasted Mr Khan for, what she called, making false promise of creating a south Punjab province. She said a clumsy driver was put in the driving seat of Pakistan and “two of his selectors are pushing the bus with full force and yet the bus is not moving”.
About corruption, she alleged that the premier, his sister and cronies were involved in massive corruption. “A government servant Asim Saleem Bajwa made assets worth billions and when he tendered his resignation he was asked (by the prime minister) there was no need of it.”
She said after “losing Kashmir to Modi, now a campaign to recognise Israel has been started”.
“The masses are asking that how this campaign has been initiated. Are both the selected and the selectors on the same page in this regard,” she asked.
She suggested the prime minister resign before the PDM announced its future strategy.
“Resign, before the difficulties for you and your masters increase. Resign, before the PDM takes any decision,” she concluded.
Aseefa Bhutto-Zardari, who made her maiden speech at the public meeting on behalf of her brother PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari who had quarantined himself after having tested positive for coronavirus, said people had announced their decision and the “selected have to go now”.
Despite all hardships, she said, her grandfather Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, mother Benazir Bhutto and father Asif Ali Zardari did not deviate from their mission for civil supremacy and fighting for the rights of people. “As you supported Dukhtar-i-Mashriq [daughter of the east] against Musharraf and MRD movement, hopefully you will stand by Bilawal at the platform of the PDM. I also will stand beside you and Chairman Bilawal in this mission,” she said.
The PPP leader said if the government thought it could scare the opposition party with arrests, it was mistaken. “If they will arrest our brothers each woman of PPP is ready for struggle. We will not only complete the mission of Bhutto and Benazir Bhutto, but also get rid of the selected government,” she stated.
Former premier Gilani said PPP always gave importance to the Seraiki belt. He recounted several names from Wasaib and said they had been given key positions including prime minister, governor, foreign minister and National Assembly speaker.
Mehmood Khan Achakzai of the Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party said PDM had not been constituted to abuse someone, but to safeguard the country.
In his hard-hitting speech, Akhtar Mengal raised the issue of violation of rights of the people of Balochistan. He said they had been fighting for their rights for 70 years. “We are weak but we are fighting not only to oust Imran Khan but to teach a lesson to those who brought him to power so that they should no more create any ‘Chhota Imran’,” he said.
He said the army should focus on the country’s defense instead of interfering in political issues.
Mian Iftikhar Hussain of the Awami National Party said Seraiki province was the right of Seraiki people. “We will get Seraiki province for Seraiki people as it is their right,” he said.
Senator Mir Tahir Bizenjo and Allama Sajid Meer also spoke.
Earlier, the Multan bench of the Lahore High Court directed the administration to remove all the obstacles, which had been placed around the public gathering venue during the past few days, besides releasing all the arrested workers of PDM, including ex-PM’s son Ali Qasim Gilani.
Published in Dawn, December 1st, 2020