Updated Saturday Oct 17 2020
The Opposition parties' Pakistan Democratic Movement is holding its first mass contact campaign today in Gujranwala as a show of force against the incumbent PTI government which they say has "failed the people in all sectors".
The alliance was given permission to hold the rally on Thursday by the government after the Gujranwala District Administration and the PDM reached a 28-point agreement on how the jalsa would be held.
As the clock moves past 12:00am, no top-tier Opposition leader has addressed the Gujranwala jalsa, except Nawaz Sharif.
JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman has arrived at the Jinnah Stadium.
Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party's Mahmood Khan Achakzai said that the PDM had come out on the streets for the supremacy of the Constitution and law.
"The Pakistani who does not accept the supremacy of the Constitution is a traitor," he said.
PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif has joined in from London to listen to the addresses by various Opposition leaders.
His speech is due to air in a while.
PML-N leader and former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi says that the government that was formed after "stealing votes" can never be successful.
"Our narrative today is just this — that one must honour the people's votes."
He said that the trust that people put in a government must never be betrayed.
"The country will only progress when it is run in line with the Constitution," Abbasi said.
Crowds chant: "Muk gaya tera show Niazi, go Niazi, go Niazi" and "Aata cheeni chor Niazi, go Niazi, go Niazi".
(You have been defeated Niazi, go Niazi, go Niazi. You have robbed us of (affordable) wheat and sugar Niazi, go Niazi, go Niazi.)
Ahsan Iqbal, addressing the jalsa, says: "He is not a prime minister who is selected, a premier is he who rules the people's hearts."
"There is 18 hours loadshedding in the country now," he said, adding that Nawaz Sharif had ended the problem and provided relief to the people.
Ahsan Iqbal comes on stage to say the people of Gujranwala have proved that this "selected, rejected" prime minister has to go.
In a conversation with Geo News, science minister Fawad Chaudhry has denied the government created any hurdles in the way of the Opposition, even when prompted by the show host to clarify why a National Assembly session was held today of all days.
Chaudhry asked how holding a parliament session can be considered an obstacle in the way of a rally. He also pointed out the lack of safety measures being observed by rally participants.
"No one is following SOPs. Our fear is that people will fall seriously ill due to this jalsa."
He said the Opposition "has called people over from all over the country" because "they don't have enough numbers of their own".
Coming back to the question of why an Assembly session was held, whether it was so that the prime minister could speak without any opposition, he said no one from the Opposition attends the session anyway.
"Besides PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, no real party leader is an MNA anyway," he added, referring to PML-N's Maryam Nawaz and JUI-F's Fazlur Rehman.
"Khwaja Asif, [Rana Sanaullah], Ahsan Iqbal are not the main leaders," he said when their names were cited.
Waqar Satti, a Geo News reporter travelling with Bilawal's convoy, says that the PPP chairman has reached the stadium and will be on the main stage in a few moments.
Satti said that "a huge number of people" came along with the PPP chairman and that several had welcomed him warmly on his arrival.
The prime minister's aide on political communication, Shahbaz Gill, has reponded to Maryam Nawaz's tweet wherein she is saying she is stuck at Shahdra, by claiming that she is exaggerating the strength of support for the PML-N out on the streets.
"She is showing pictures to give the impression that all the vehicles are part of her caravan, whereas it is just normal traffic."
"If that were true, then all these people here in Islamabad, are all travelling with me," he added.
Nawaz Sharif's spokesperson Muhammad Zubair says that the incumbent government is "incompetent and it was "brought into power".
"A conspiracy was hatched against Nawaz Sharif's government to strengthen PTI," he said while speaking in Geo News programme "Naya Pakistan".
The former Sindh governor claimed that nearly 70% of the people in the convoy were youth.
Talking about coronavirus fears, he said that the workers were provided masks.
"Nawaz Sharif is raising his voice for the country from abroad," he said, adding that he was there only for his "treatment".
PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto's convoy has almost reached Gujranwala city, according to Geo News.
Usman Bhatti, Geo News' reporter who is riding along with Maryam Nawaz's convoy, said that the district administration had closed the adjoining roads on the PML-N vice-president's declared route, making it harder for workers to join her.
According to Bhatti, both Maryam and JUI-F chief Maulana Fazl are at Shahdara Chowk in Lahore, and it will take them more than one hour and thirty minutes to reach the jalsa.
PML-N leader Khawaja Saad Rafique has uploaded pictures on his Twitter account in a bid to charge party workers.
In the tweet, Rafique said: "How will you defeat such passion?"
Usman Bhatti, Geo News reporter who is riding along with Maryam Nawaz's convoy, says that the district administration had closed the adjoining roads on the PML-N vice-president's declared route, making it harder for workers to join her.
According to Bhatti, both Maryam and JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman are at Shahdra Chowk in Lahore, and it will take them more than one hour and thirty minutes to reach the jalsa.
Maulana Fazlur Rehman and his caravan of supporters have reached Niazi Chowk on Lahore's Ravi Road.
Ahsan Iqbal and Daniyal Aziz of the PML-N have reached Jinnah Stadium.
Hamid Mir also says many people at the venue aren't even party workers.
He says because of the government's road blocks, regular citizens went to the rally because they were curious about why the roads were blocked.
Geo News journalist Hamid Mir has estimated a gathering of 50,000-60,000 people.
Reporting from the venue to Shahzad Iqbal in the studio, he said that no one is wearing masks.
The host reasons: "If party leaders can call so many people out on the streets, they can ask them to wear masks."
Punjab information minister Fayyazul Hasan Chohan says the Punjab government "has no intention of stopping the leaders' 50-car convoy each".
The government has issued instructions for the authorities to not create any hindrances in the way of participants and to provide them water and masks.
"Containers were brought for the security," he said, telling Maryam to stop "misleading the people" by saying that the Opposition is being prevented from moving to the venue.
Maryam tweets that she left Lahore at 2pm and still hasn't been able to cross Shahdra. "There is an ocean of people front, back, right and left."
"This is unprecedented," she wrote.
Women at the jalsa venue in Gujranwala are eagerly awaiting the arrival of the Opposition leaders who are each expected to speak in turn at the event.
Speaking to Geo News, they said the people want to come out and fight for their rights and are here "for their children". "We can no longer sit at home. It is high time we fight for our rights."
People "whose rights have been usurped", can use sanitisers, one woman said when asked whether they are afraid of catching coronavirus.
"We are not ones to back down or be afraid of anything," she declared.
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