LAHORE: PDM supporters attend the public meeting at Minar-i-Pakistan on Sunday.—M. Arif / White Star
LAHORE: PDM supporters attend the public meeting at Minar-i-Pakistan on Sunday.—M. Arif / White Star

• Fazl declares ‘rigged system’ unsustainable
• Bilawal says people’s mandate not behind PTI govt
• Nawaz reaffirms stand on resignations
• Maryam says Punjab will act as real brother instead of big brother

LAHORE: The 11-party opposition Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) alliance held its much-hyped power show at Minar-i-Pakistan on Sunday with its convener Maulana Fazlur Rehman asking the establishment to move aside from the way of the masses or else there could be chaos in the country when the state institutions would be pitched against people.

Addressing a large rally, he said if the country and parliament belonged to people then the right to rule also belonged to people and said that ‘rigged system’ would not sustain.

He cautioned that national solidarity could not be ensured if rights of people continued to be violated.

While Maulana Fazl and other PDM leaders Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari and Maryam Nawaz slated the government, their tone was not as sharp as expected at the much-trumpeted ‘decisive’ rally of the opposition.

Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif asserted that his narrative is the narrative of the Constitution and of the oath that army officers take under the Constitution, explaining that his motive for naming the few generals in his speeches is to save the entire institution of army from being blamed for political interference.

While addressing the sixth power show of the PDM from London via video link, ex-PM Sharif claimed he was being asked not to take the names of such elements, adding that if could not take their names whether he should name Wapda (Water and Power Development Authority), agriculture department or Auqaf department officials for violation of the Constitution, crossing over the boundary walls of PM House, arresting a sitting prime minister, and blackmailing judges to extract verdicts of their choice.

Pledging to continue speaking the truth, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) supremo asked those elements not to use the institution of the armed forces for their political interests and shut down the factories of ‘political engineering’ in agencies. The drama of ‘selected’ set-ups must reach its logical end, he said.

Lauding his party lawmakers who had submitted their resignations from the assemblies, he assured PDM convener Maulana Fazlur Rehman that all the resignations would be handed over to him whenever required.

Notwithstanding Covid-19, security threats and December’s biting chill, a large number of people, both from within and outside Lahore, thronged the venue. It was the first public appearance both for Maryam Nawaz Sharif and Bilawal Bhutto Zardari at the historical Manto Park, where the Pakistan Resolution had been passed 80 years ago.

Police authorities said they had deputed 5000-strong force around the venue but they were rarely seen around as internal security was being managed by the Ansarul Islam, a uniformed wing of Maulana Fazlur Rehman’s Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam.

Time for long march: Bilawal

Addressing the last public meeting of the PDM’s first phase of protests against the Imran government, the PPP chairman rejected all ‘offers’ of dialogue saying that its time was over as the masses were ready for a long march on Islamabad. He said that the ‘selectors’ too would have to concede to the verdict of the masses.

Asking the mediators who were contacting various PDM leaders to stop their efforts, Mr Bhutto-Zardari said no rift could be created among the alliance constituents, which would lead the march to the federal capital and force the ‘incompetent’, ‘illegal’ prime minister to resign from his office. He said the incumbent government came into power through “(raising of) the umpire’s finger” and not through the people’s mandate. He demanded that the system of forming selected governments instead of giving this right to the people must be brought to an end at once.

He demanded release of the incumbent and former opposition leaders in National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif and Khurshid Shah, respectively. He also led the slogans of vote theft unacceptable and robbery of constitution unacceptable.

Punjab to act as real brother: Maryam Nawaz

The PML-N vice president Maryam Nawaz said Lahore had given a clear message that Punjab would not play the role of ‘big brother’ but ‘real brother’ to bring together all the four federating units.

She alleged that the media houses were being asked through phone calls to say the Lahore rally was unsuccessful. She said the people of Lahore had rather buried the ‘bogus change’ that the PTI began from the same venue back in 2011. She said the opposition would not give any NRO to the prime minister despite the offers for talks.

She said people knew that Imran Khan’s public meeting in 2011 had been organized by then ISI chief Gen Shuja Pasha. Through a fixed match, the PTI was declared winner in the 2018 polls, she alleged.

On the eve, she also screened some old video clips of Imran Khan who before coming into power had assured the masses of ending corruption within 90 days, cutting gas and oil tariffs and diverting public funds from roads construction towards health and education.

About his claims of ending political interference in police force, she said he replaced a number of high-ranking officers only to get vacated a plot of his brother-in-law.

BNP-Mengal leader Akhtar Mengal spoke of the problems being faced by the people of Balochistan at the hands of the undemocratic forces for the past many years and urged the people of Punjab to make the undemocratic forces realize that the country could flourish only if the people were given their due rights. He said the people of Balochistan should be given an equal citizen’s status and control on the minerals and waters of the province.

PkMAP’s Mahmood Achakzai said Bilawal, Maryam and Maulana Fazl should talk to the establishment and if the establishment was ready to step back then it was fine, otherwise the conditions were ripe for a French-like revolution. He swore to side with Nawaz Sharif and Maryam Nawaz if they worked for the revolution.

Prof Sajid Mir demanded that the masses be given their right to choose their leaders. He said a former army general had affirmed in his book about the involvement of state institutions in politics.

A number of resolutions on various issues were presented by PDM spokesperson Mian Iftikhar Hussain and passed by the participants. One of these opposed the moves against the 18th Amendment and called for upholding provincial autonomy. Another condemned forced disappearances and demanded recovery of the missing persons, yet another denounced Gwadar fencing seeking removal of the same and also rejected sacking of PIMS doctors and paramedics through an ordinance. The audience also passed a resolution demanding ouster of the incumbent government “which came into being as a result of rigging”.

The PDM leadership earlier held a consultative meeting at the residence of former National Assembly speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq where they had lunch together.

Published in Dawn, December 14th, 2020

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