‘PTI came to power through umpire’s signal,’ Bilawal tells charged crowd at PDM’s Lahore power show

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LAHORE, DEC 13 – The sixth public meeting, which the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) is calling a “historic and decisive” power show, is underway in Lahore’s Minar-i-Pakistan.

On their arrival at the venue, PDM leaders Maulana Fazlur Rehman, Maryam Nawaz, Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari along with others were greeted by enthusiastic supporters who had gathered at Minar-i-Pakistan during the day.

This is the first time in the recent history of the country that the PML-N is holding a public meeting at Minar-i-Pakistan, the first rally at this venue for PML-N Vice President Maryam.

Similarly, it is PPP Chairperson Bilawal’s first appearance at a political gathering at Minar-i-Pakistan. His late mother, former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, held a historic public meeting at Minar-i-Pakistan in 1986.

PML-N Vice President Maryam thanked Lahore’s residents for attending the public meeting in overwhelming numbers. Without naming the prime minister, Maryam said that someone had “challenged PDM in Pharoah’s tone” to gather enough people to fill up Minar-i-Pakistan’s grounds, adding that today, participants of the public meeting had filled up adjoining streets as well.

Referring to a gathering held by the PTI at Minar-i-Pakistan in 2011, Maryam alleged that the public meeting had been arranged by former ISI chief Shuja Pasha.

Maryam also spoke about the Panama Papers case and alleged that former chief justice Asif Saeed Khosa had told the incumbent prime minister to file an application “after which you (Imran) ousted Nawaz Sharif on the basis of an iqama through a fixed match”.

The PML-N vice president also questioned PM Imran’s offer for dialogue through the Parliament, asking who was behind the operations of the House. The incumbent premier will have to go, Maryam said, because he had ruined the country’s economy and had “lied to the people every day”.

She said Lahore welcomed Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan as a “real brother”.

“No one is big or small, we are all equal,” Maryam declared.

She said that for the past three years, the prime minister — whom she referred to as ‘Tabedar (obedient) Khan’ — had been saying that he will not grant an NRO. Maryam insisted that today, the prime minister was seeking an NRO from Nawaz Sharif and the people.

She urged the people to wear masks because “I value and care for your life” but said that it was important to attend public meetings because Covid-18 was “more lethal than Covid-19”. The former prime minister’s daughter expressed grief that seven patients in Peshawar’s Khyber Teaching Hospital had died due to shortage in oxygen supply and question the PTI government’s performance in the health sector.

PPP chief Bilawal, in his address, recalled that his grandfather Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto had founded the party in Punjab. PPP workers in Lahore, Bilawal said, went through torture but continued to support democracy.

He said that the country was suffering because of the “fake, incompetent and illegitimate government”.

“Punjab’s pag (turban) is on the head of the puppet of a puppet. Is this acceptable to Punjab?” he asked, adding that he neither accepted the prime minister nor his chief minister. He insisted that the PDM’s “war is not for power but for the rights” of the people.

The PPP chief said that non-democratic forces termed as the establishment, which he refers to as the selectors, “have been conspiring against you (public) and have been forming governments of their choice”. He said that the incumbent government was brought to power “through the umpire’s signal”.

“Selectors, listen, you will have to listen to the public’s voice, you will have to accept their decision […] the time for dialogue is gone, now there will be a long march,” said a charged Bilawal.

“Stop making phone calls, stop trying to establish contacts. No differences can be created between us, we will reach Islamabad and chase your puppet out. Once he is gone, then there can be dialogue,” said Bilawal.

PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif also addressed the crowd via video link and asked who was answerable for the government’s failings.

“He says I won’t give an NRO. Who is asking you for an NRO? You and Aleema Khan got an NRO from Saqib Nisar yourself,” said Nawaz.

“They say, don’t take names? Tell me, what should we do? Is Imran Khan alone responsible for the predicament the country is in?”

Nawaz said that his “crime is that I speak the truth” and added that he was fighting for the people. He said that his “narrative” was the same as Quaid-i-Azam’s.

“Stop political engineering factories in agencies,” said the former prime minister.

JUI-F chief also addressed the crowd and said: “The wounds inflicted by the rigging done by the establishment for this illegal government, the dirty role they played [to sieze] this illegal power are getting deeper.”

Rehman further said that he wanted to “alert and caution the defence forces and their leadership […] to move out of the people’s way and let them reach Islamabad”.

“In the coming days, I see anarchy in the country. We should handle matters before heading towards anarchy,” he said.

‘Who is responsible?’

Jamiat Ulema-i-Pakistan’s (JUP) Awais Noorani, who was the first to address the crowd, told Prime Minister Imran Khan to submit his resignation and called upon PTI supporters to “rebel” against the ruling party.

Awami National Party Ameer Haider Khan Hoti also condemned the ruling PTI and said that about 80 years ago, Bacha Khan had started a non-violent struggle for his nation’s rights but he was termed as a traitor.

Hoti declared that terrorism was “imposed upon the Pakhtun people” saying, “Pakhtun people were the ones who were killed and were defamed as well”. He added that there were “conspiracies” to lead Afghan peace talks towards failure and efforts to “create misunderstandings between Afghanistan and Pakistan”.

“I want to say that this is not our fight alone, this is of all of Pakistan’s,” he said. Hoti urged PDM leaders to stand by the Pakhtun people and vowed that he would continue to stand by the alliance for the “supremacy of the Parliament and Constitution and the respect for vote”.

Balochistan National Party-Mengal’s Sardar Akhtar Mengal started off his address by saying that the PDM public meetings were “funeral prayers of the dictators and the powers who, for 70 years, have treated the country’s Constitution as their slave”.

“I will only present a few drops of the blood flowing from our bodies and then you can decide if we are responsible for the distrubance in Balochistan today,” he said. Mengal said that his party had been struggling against the khalayi makhlooq, against whom the people have gathered today.

“Who is responsible [for the cruelty and injustice over the past 70 years]? It is not them, but the politicians and [people of the] big province who have gathered in this venue today,” Mengal said. “Had you controlled this dragon from day one, it would not have become this uncontrollable monster. This genie that is out of the bottle, it is your responsibility to control it.”

Mengal said that 10,000 Baloch people were still missing, adding that all the people of Balochistan want was to be treated and respected as humans. He also spoke about provincial autonomy, saying that if “provinces were autonomous [in Pakistan] Bangladesh would not have been created”. He said that in Gwadar people were being “divided like East Germany and West Germany” in the name of development.

Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party chairman Mehmood Khan Achakzai called for a “Turkey-like revolution” in Pakistan and urged Maryam, Bilawal and Rehman to spearhead the movement. He said that he was striving for a Pakistan where no ethnicity would be superior to the other.

Jamiat-i-Ahle Hadees chief emir Professor Sajid Mir also spoke at the gathering and said he wanted to “commend the participants for holding a grand and memorable public meeting in the shadow of Minar-i-Pakistan despite the difficulties” created by the government.

He said that the “new Pakistan’s government was in quarantine” and added that PDM shared the same narrative. Mir said that the “right to self govern should be returned to the public”.