Sunday Dec 13, 2020
LAHORE: The Pakistan Democratic Movement has announced a long march to Islamabad, by late January or early February.
The announcement came during a rally at Lahore's Minar-e-Pakistan on Sunday, hosted by the PML-N.
Even though the organisers of the jalsa had asked the attendees to reach the venue at 2pm, hundreds of supports gathered there early on despite the cold weather, enthusiastically chanting slogans, carrying flags, and warming up the atmosphere.
Take a look: How chilly is the weather in Lahore?
PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz in her address urged supporters to answer the call for a march to Islamabad, while PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari formally announced that PDM is now headed to the capital.
PDM chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman said the march will take place late January or early February.
With the tall and imposing Minar-e-Pakistan behind him, Fazlur Rehman saluted the crowd's passion and enthusiasm.
"The resolve that you have shown will prove to be a milestone in history," he said.
"The country is currently ruled by an illegitimate government," the PDM chief said.
He vowed that the government "will be one of the people". "This system of rigging will no longer work."
Fazlur Rehman said that people's emotions are now turning to that of anger and resentment and the Opposition's movement is aimed at addressing their woes and securing stability for Pakistan.
"Let us all make a vow today. We must keep our land free," he said to the crowd. "And like a free nation, we have to forge our own identity."
He said that never in 73 years did India dare such a move but today has "illegally occupied Kashmir and swallowed it whole".
"Today the poor are unemployed and inflation has broken the backs of the people," he said, adding that the youth to whom golden dreams were shown have no source of income today.
Taking the prime minister to task, he said: "When he was staging sit-ins, he had benefactors, and now that he is in the government, it is because he was brought here."
Fazlur Rehman said that the PDM demands the rule of the Parliament. "We will not allow the Parliament to be held hostage." He vowed that electoral reforms will be brought in for free elections and people's rights will be safeguarded, as well as those of the provinces.
He also promised freedom of speech and protection of media, and the eradication of terrorism.
"We will march towards Islamabad in late January or early February," he announced.
Fazlur Rehman said that all Opposition parties will "take our resignations with us".
"We will no longer allow the illegitimate government to rule. We will only rest after it is brought to an end."
Bilawal began his address by saying the PPP's foundations were laid in Lahore by party founder Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. He paid tribute to all those who had died in Lahore but never bowed to dictators.
He said that PDM is reaching out to every town and village. "Things are in a dismal state with today's incompetent, illegal and unqualified government. People have nothing but curses in their hearts and on their lips."
The PPP chairman said that these "fools have no clue or wisdom about history", adding: "When have we ever feared dictators? We have burned all our boats."
He said that when the people band together in a show of force like today "chains of oppression are broken". "Your victory is near," he said, to a roaring crowd.
"InshaAllah this puppet government will be sent home."
He said that although students, traders, doctors, and shopkeepers are all in deep distress, the future of Pakistan is bright. "The government cannot feel the pain of the people because they did not come through your vote. This is not the choice of the people."
Bilawal said that the "biggest joke" was being pulled with Punjab, where the "fake government" has no concern for the people's rights. "In the city of lights there is nothing but darkness," he added.
The PPP chairman said that PDM stands by the people of Lahore.
He said that it is the platform's demand to free Opposition Leader Shahbaz Sharif and PPP's Khurshid Shah.
Bilawal said that when students demand their rights through student unions, there is "police gardi", when doctors and nurses ask for their rights, force is used against them and when farmers ask for their rights, they are "martyred".
"But the night of the oppression is about to end," he said.
The PPP chairman said that all the Opposition parties have put aside their political differences and are standing together on the platform of PDM.
He said this was done "so we can restore your rightfully chosen leaders".
"This isn't a fight for rule. This is a war to deliver roti, kapra and makaan (food, clothing and shelter). This is a war for the youth, for the labourers and for all of you."
"We have sacrificed our lives for this democracy. And we will defend this democracy and your votes with our blood," Bilawal added.
"Now the selectors must hear us: You will have to accept the people's voice and decision. There is no other way. The time for dialogue is over.
"Now there will be a long march! Islamabad we are coming! When we reach Islamabad, we will snatch the undeserving prime minister's resignation. We are united and we will chase out the puppet," he declared.
"From Gilgit to Lahore and from Lahore to Karachi, there is one voice. The theft of votes [...] of democracy and Constitution is unacceptable."
Maryam, welcoming supporters to the gathering, said: "Who used to say in their pharoah-like tone that the PML-N should dare and fill the venue?"
"To them I say: Come and behold this full venue. The entire area surrounding the venue is full."
"Thousands could not find space here," she said.
Maryam urged the supporters to give a warm welcome to leaders of other provinces that have arrived. She said that Lahore will be the binding force for all provinces.
Lauding the people of Lahore for the welcome they had shown her in the days leading up to the rally, she said that every nook and corner of the city had turned into a jalsa venue. She said she will never be able to repay the people for the kindnesses shown to her in all her life.
She also requested the men present to respect and take care of and protect the women in attendance.
"I have received word that the media is being told to portray as if the rally failed. I know who is making these calls," Maryam said, adding: "The people of Lahore have thrown this anti-people government off from the heights of Minar-e-Pakistan."
The PML-N vice president also mimicked Prime Minister Imran Khan, shaking her head in the negative, quoting him as saying: "I won't give an NRO."
She said that the prime minister is now asking the PDM and Nawaz Sharif for an NRO. "Tell me people of Lahore, will you give him an NRO?"
"Remember this Imran Khan, Taabedaar Khan," she said, referring to loud chants by the gathering.
"I was about to add one more thing but you have started cheering at the mention of Taabedaar Khan," she remarked.
Maryam said that a virus far more dangerous and deadlier than COVID-19 is " COVID-18 Taabedaar Khan Imran Khan". She said that because of "COVID-18" Pakistan's progress, along with its wheat, sugar, gas, electricity, salaries, medicines have all been put under "quarantine".
She said that the prime minister claims that the Opposition "do not know him" but not only do the Opposition "know him", so does every child, their mothers and the sick, from whose reach medicines have been put out.
The PML-N vice president also played two sets of videos, showing all of the promises made by PM Imran Khan when the PTI held a jalsa, right under Minar-e-Pakistan.
"When a leader engages in corruption, it is the people who pay with inflation. So who is the real thief?" she asked.
Counting all of the premier's promises made pre-election, she asked whether all the hospitals and universities that were promised ever came to fruition. "He used to say that PM House and Governor House would be turned into a university. But did it happen?"
She lamented the mismanagement at Khyber Teaching Hospital where six lives were lost due to a lack of availability of oxygen tanks.
Maryam said that the prime minister would say he will never take a loan. "I will not beg," she said, quoting him.
"The whole nation saw Taabedaar Khan set new debt records," she remarked, referring to various loans obtained by the government.
"When he does not have an answer to Nawaz Sharif's words, he says Nawaz Sharif is a traitor."
"Tell me, are any of Nawaz Sharif's demands unconstitutional?"
She said that the people of Lahore have "decided that Taabedaar Khan has to go".
Maryam said that Imran Khan is only worried about "saving his job". She urged the people: "Promise me, if you have to march towards Islamabad, you will march."
Qaumi Watan Party chairman Aftab Sherpao addressed the gathering, saying that the platform is of the view that domestic and foreign policies have "failed".
"All institutions have become paralysed. We do not accept the inflation and unemployment and the country's economic policies," he said, adding that Pakistan ranks among the countries with the highest inflation in the region.
He lamented the poor clamouring for sugar and wheat.
"Imran Niazi blames the 'mafia' for the inflation, but it is you that [helped] the mafia," he said.
Earlier, in the afternoon, the PML-N hosted a lunch for PDM leaders at the residence of former National Assembly speaker Ayaz Sadiq, where a consultative pre-rally meeting was also held.
Maulana Fazlur Rehman, Maryam Nawaz, Pervez Rasheed, Mohammad Zubair, Musadik Malik attended the gathering. They were joined by PPP chief Bilawal Bhutto, National Party's Dr Abdul Malik Baloch and Pashtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) chief Mahmood Khan Achakzai.
Desi murghi was prepared at Fazl's request. To find out what else was served at the pre-jalsa lunch go here.
Speaking to journalists before her departure to Sadiq's house, Maryam said that the Opposition, along with the masses, will soon "topple the government."
"We are aware of the problems of the people of Lahore," she said. "You all should get out of your house for the sake of the country and help us oust this government."