ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), a cluster of some mainstream opposition parties, on Friday geared up its anti-government campaign and staged rallies in different parts of the country to protest against “unprecedented inflation”.
Some of the major cities where the PDM held rallies were: Lahore, Karachi, Peshawar and Quetta.
In demonstrations, the opposition parties demanded immediate resignation of Prime Minister Imran Khan for what they called “his failure to control price hike”.
They announced that the opposition’s protest campaign would intensify after two weeks.
The PDM drive coupled with the banned Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan’s long march, that started from Lahore on Friday and is expected to reach Islamabad in the next 48 hours, has become a source of worry for the government as it has decided to seal all entry points of the federal capital and other major cities coming on the way.
Imran urged to resign for failing to control inflation
At the rallies, the opposition leaders urged all segments of society, including traders, transporters, students, farmers, labourers and lawyers, to join the campaign to rid the country of “selected and incompetent rulers”.
On the other hand, the ministers and close aides to Prime Minister Imran Khan — Fawad Chaudhry, Farrukh Habib and Shahbaz Gill — defended the government’s policies and said inflation in Pakistan was lower than neighbouring countries. They said the government would soon present a massive relief package to overcome inflation.
In Lahore, the PML-N’s stronghold, and other parts of Punjab, the central leadership of the PDM was conspicuous by its absence from its first round of protests against unbridled inflation.
It was primarily a PML-N show under the banner of the PDM. The anti-inflation rallies were held in Lahore, Muzaffargarh, Jhang, Kasur, Mianwali, Bahawalpur, Bhakkar, Vehari, Khushab, Layyah and Murree.
A good number of PDM workers joined the protest, condemning the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government for making the lives of the masses miserable through unprecedented price hike and inflation.
Holding banners and placards, the participants chanted slogans against Prime Minister Khan for “destroying the country’s economy” through poor policies and asked him to step down.
Some of the charged workers urged the PDM leadership to organise a long march on the issue of inflation.
In Lahore, the PDM rally was held outside Jain Mandar. The gathering echoed with ‘Go Niazi go’ slogans.
Both PML-N president Shehbaz Sharif and vice president Maryam Nawaz were present in the city but none of them showed up. Instead, Mr Shehbaz issued a directive to provincial and district presidents of the party to ensure participation of workers and the masses in the demonstrations across the country. “Without getting rid of this cruel government of PTI the economic situation will not improve. Giving more time to the government means more inflation and joblessness,” the opposition leader in the National Assembly said.
Addressing the rally in Lahore, former speaker of National Assembly Sardar Ayaz Sadiq said Imran Khan lied on everything and took U-turns. “If this economic situation prevails the poor will be crushed,” he said, adding that the premier was begging for a phone call from (Indian Prime Minister Narendra) Modi and (US President Joe) Biden.
Khwaja Saad Rafique said the country had been handed over to “the inept and inexperienced”. “This man (Imran) has destroyed the country which was progressing,” he said.
Similarly, in other 10 districts of Punjab the local leadership of PML-N and Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) led the rallies.
In the Punjab Assembly, the PML-N submitted a resolution demanding resignation of PM Khan for his wrong policies that “have led the country to the verge of bankruptcy”.
PML-N lawmaker Hina Pervaiz Butt moved the resolution saying the house had serious reservations on the report of The Economist which stated that Pakistan had become the third most expensive country in the world.
“Imran Khan changed four finance ministers and they all failed to put the country’s economy on the right track. The wrong decisions of the premier have led the country to bankruptcy, therefore, the house demands that PM Khan should immediately step down,” the resolution said.
In Karachi, a large number of opposition workers attended a demonstration at the main intersection of Sadar near Empress Market where PDM leaders addressed the gathering and vowed to continue the struggle till the fall of PTI government and fresh and transparent election.
Key speakers include JUI-F leader Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri and senior PML-N leader Miftah Ismail. In their speeches, they called upon traders, students and every segment of society to come out of their homes to strengthen the PDM campaign against the “anti-poor government” which was toeing the line of International Monetary Fund in the name of change.
Like other parts of the country, the PDM’s two major component parties – the JUI-F and the PML-N -- organised rallies across Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
“The country has witnessed its history’s highest ever inflation and unemployment. If the government does not withdraw the current hike in petroleum products prices and electricity and gas tariffs, we would launch a countrywide agitation for early general elections,” PML-N leader Sardar Mohammad Yusuf told a rally.
Holding flags of their parties, JUI-F and PML-N activists raised slogans against the government.
Speaking on the occasion, JUI-F leader Maulana Hidayatullah Shah said days of the “corrupt and fascist” government were numbered.
In Peshawar and Charsadda, rallies were staged by the Qaumi Wattan Party which were addressed by the party chief Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao.
The local chapters of JUI-F held demonstrations in Lakki Marwat and Bannu.
A large number of party activists and people from other walks of life participated.
In Lakki Marwat, JUI-F activists took out a rally from town hall and converged at Qazi Ishfaq Chowk. The participants carried banners, placards and party flags and raised anti-government slogans.
Speaking on the occasion, MPA Munawar Khan and others said the wrong policies of the government had destroyed the country’s economy. “The IMF-dictated decisions have added to the troubles of people as unbearable inflation has snatched their purchasing power,” they added.
PML-N workers blocked Bisham-Swat road at Alpuri. They urged the government to immediately reduce the prices of petroleum products by Rs50 per litre.
In Swat, PML-N provincial president Amir Muqam said taking to the streets and protesting against the “anti-people” government of PTI had become indispensable as the “gang of Imran Khan” was “robbing the country with both hands”.
He was addressing a meeting of his party workers in the Shahdara area of Mingora. Several members of the Awami National Party and the PTI joined the PML-N on the occasion.
“The nation has awakened against the corrupt rulers and it is high time for people to join the campaign of the PML-N and strengthen the party against the corrupt rulers,” Mr Muqam said, adding that the exit of the PTI rulers was getting closer and, in a few months, they would be out of the government.
PML-N workers also held protest rallies in different parts of Swat against price hike and inflation.
Zulqernain Tahir in Lahore and Imran Ayub in Karachi also contributed to this report
Published in Dawn, October 23rd, 2021