ISLAMABAD, May 12: President Gen Pervez Musharraf on Saturday declared that the pro-government rallies held in Karachi and the federal capital were a clear demonstration of support for him and his policies, and said the killings and violence witnessed in Karachi was mainly because Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry refused to adhere to the administration’s advice of not going to the port city.
Addressing a big rally from behind a highly-guarded bullet-proof dais as the prime minister and a host of other government leaders also sat under a protected glass wall, President Musharraf declared that the overwhelming majority in the country was with him. “The people of Pakistan are with me, therefore, I do not see any justification whatsoever to impose emergency,” he said. “But what has happened today in Karachi is because of the chief justice who went there ignoring the advice of the government over the issue,” he asserted.
Justifying what he described as his government’s move to counter the opposition-backed chief justice’s campaign of the past few weeks, President Musharraf said it was unfortunate that such a large number of people were killed or maimed in Karachi. But he was quick to hold the opposition parties, and in a way the chief justice, responsible for the violence.
They refused to listen to the government’s advice, he said, and what happened in Karachi was the direct result of the adamant attitude of the few who have been running the present campaign against the government. “If they think they are powerful, then they should know that the people’s power is with us,” the president said while describing those attending his rally outside the presidency in Islamabad.
The president dispelled the impression that he was thinking of imposing emergency in the country. And though he described the violent events of Karachi as unfortunate, and the protest campaign by chief justice’s supporters as unreal and unreasonable, he categorically rejected the idea of emergency.
“This is the election year, and instead of taking any other action, I am determined to hold free and fair elections for the formation of the next government,” he said.
The public gathering in Islamabad, and the president’s justification of the rally organised by the Muttahida Qaumi Movement in Karachi, was a clear demonstration of the government’s latest policy to counter the pro-CJ opposition parties with street power. The rally was attended by tens of thousands of people who had been brought from Punjab and the NWFP by PML leaders and the local government institutions on hundred of buses, wagons and cars.However, the organisers of the pro-Musharraf rally kept claiming that half a million people were attending the public meeting in Islamabad.
The president termed the rally as the biggest ever he has seen in his whole life. However, the rally lacked enthusiasm as the people did not respond so loudly to the slogans even chanted by the prime minister and Sheikh Rashid.
A fully bullet-proof 19-foot high stage was set for the rally which was also addressed by Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, PML president Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, Punjab Chief Minister Chaudhry Pervaiz Illahi, Balochistan Chief Minister Jam Yousuf, Railway Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmad, PML’s NWFP chief Amir Moqam and PML Women Wing president Sumeria Malik.
Street lights and powers lights in and around the parliament building, President’s House, Prime Minister’s House, Constitution Avenue and the Blue area remained on almost throughout the day, making the mockery of the government’s decision to conserve energy in the wake of worsening power crisis across Pakistan.
The journalist community also protested during the rally over the attack on a private channel in Karachi for which the organisers, especially the Punjab chief minister and Sheikh Rashid condemned the incident and assured that the government would look into the issue.
President Musharraf said he believed in rule of law and the supremacy of the judiciary and would readily accept the decision of the Supreme Court over the issue of the chief justice. “Now that the full court will be deciding the issue, the lawyers’ fraternity should stop protesting and stop playing in hands of some disgruntled and unwise people,” he said.He claimed that he enjoyed support of the people and would continue to stand firm against those who were out to play politics by forgetting the national interest. “My heart is weeping over what has happened in Karachi today and beside the death of many people, there have been a loss of property and vehicles.” What was the fault of those poor people whose motorcycles were burnt in Karachi, he asked.
He said if the lawyers’ community believed in the independence of the judiciary so did he and that let both work together for what he termed a “noble cause”.
He called upon opposition parties to wait for 2007 elections which he assured would be held in a free and fair manner and in accordance with the Constitution. “After a few months, I will be contesting for the second term in office and then the elections of the national and provincial assemblies will be held.”
The country, he pointed out, needed to be pulled out from the existing crises and to save the people from extremism which he said was posing a grave threat to everybody.
“I am still exercising restraints and avoiding exposing some people,” he said, adding that he was being forced to demonstrate his popularity and strength by holding rallies and public meetings.
The president said he did not have any personal agenda to pursue and that he wanted to serve Pakistan for a few more years so that democracy could be strengthened and the fruits of the improved economy could go to the common man.