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PESHAWAR: Amid stringent security arrangements, the Opposition’s Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) organised its fourth power show at Peshawar’s Kabootar Chowk on Sunday, despite being refused the permission to hold a public gathering by the local administration, citing an exponential rise in coronavirus cases.

The 11-party opposition alliance's rally gathered in the provincial capital Peshawar amid the provincial government's warning that it may lodge cases against them if a spike in virus cases was witnessed in the province after the rally.

A police command and control room was set up for the rally, whereas about 4,000 security personnel were deployed while over 1,000 wardens managed the traffic. Mobile phone services were suspended in areas surrounding the PDM rally. A 120-feet long, 32-feet wide and 8-feet high stage and some 50,000 chairs were set up at the venue.

Opposition leaders, including PDM chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman, PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and PML-N vice-president Maryam Nawaz along with Mahmood Khan Achakzai, Ameer Haider Hoti, Aimal Wali Khan, Sardar Akhtar Mengal and Aftab Ahamd Khan Sherpao addressed the gigantic rally.

PDM chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman was the keynote and last to address the event. He said that the selected government has brought the country’s economy on brink of bankruptcy.

He regretted that PML-N vice president Maryam Nawaz was unable to attend and expressed his condolences over the death of her grandmother Shamim Akhtar. He also extended his condolences to the families of Justice Waqar Ahmed Seth and Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan chief Khadim Hussain Rizvi over their passing.

Fazlur Rehman said that all political parties agree and it is the movement's ‘clear stance’ that the incumbent government came to power through a ‘rigged election’. He claimed with the huge turnout witnessed in all the PDM rallies so far, the government has been ‘left bewildered’.

PML-N vice president Maryam Nawaz briefly appeared on stage and addressed the rally participants, asking for prayers for her grandmother who passed away this morning in London as well as for the health of her father, former prime minister Nawaz Sharif.

PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari delivered a long speech at the gathering, vowing that the people of the province will never be abandoned.

Bilawal said that today the entire Pakistan saw that Pakhtunkhwa and people of Peshawar had announced their decision and made a referendum as Pakhtunkhwa demanded Go Imran Go.

PPP chairman predicted that the government is only a guest till January. Today's rally is a referendum, the people have decided, now the rulers will have to go home. He said that the land of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is the land of the proud and the brave. The people here have made a decision. The whole of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa demands that the government be sent home.

Bilawal Bhutto accused the government of playing the good and bad Taliban game. The people of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa were left helpless. We will not allow terrorists to regroup. He said that unless there is equal law for all in the country, corruption will not be eradicated. Everything is expensive, including electricity, sugar, gas, vegetables, potatoes and poultry.

Bilawal Bhutto said that due to the incompetence of the selected, there is a crisis of electricity, flour and sugar in the country. The country has historical inflation and poverty.

Chairman PPP said that people are also carrying the burden of incompetence of the government. He said that selected did not dare to speak out against terrorists. In Swat and South Waziristan, the Pakistani flag is flying because of democracy.

The PPP chairman said that the ‘burden of the selected government’ is being borne by the common man. "First there was a flour, sugar, and oil crisis, and now a gas crisis will arise," he said, adding that people cannot even buy eggs, let alone chicken any more at the rates they are going for. He vowed to give KP its due share, lamenting that due to the ‘incompetence of the FBR (Federal Board of Revenue)’ Rs160bn were not given to the province.

Bilawal asked why it is that the benefits of the China-Pak Economic Corridor are not being shared with the people of KP. "These rulers shouted the most against corruption but turned out to be the most corrupt," he said.

The people here have sacrificed their lives for the protection of the country. This is a soil of brave Pakhtuns, who have rendered lots of sacrifices for the motherland and peace by fighting against terrorism and extremism, PPP leader said.

Ameer Haider Hoti, Aftab Ahmad Khan Sherpao, Mahmood Khan Achakzai, Sardar Akhtar Mengal, Ameer Muqam, Mian Iftikhar Hussain, Sardar Hussain Babak and others also addressed the PDM rally.

Meanwhile, due to the PDM rally, the entry of heavy vehicles in Peshawar district is closed from morning till night, while those coming from Islamabad have been directed to get off at Mardan Rashkai Interchange and use Nowshera GT Road Perezkori Bridge.

Those entering Peshawar will have to take the Charsadda Road route, while those coming from the southern districts will enter Peshawar from Frontier Road Matni, Sarband and Bara Road via Ring Road.

Having addressed previous PDM gatherings from London via video link, PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif will not be addressing the Peshawar rally, apparently due to severe kidney pain. The news was confirmed by Maryam Nawaz in response to a tweet on Saturday.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2020