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LAHORE: The leadership of the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) while concluding their 'decisive' power show at Minar-e-Pakistan on Sunday called upon the establishment to stop making phone calls to them as the time to hold talks has ended and now they would be marching towards Islamabad to send packing of the "incompetent and puppet" PTI government in the last week of the coming January.

The PDM leadership which succeeded in gathering a good crowd at Minar-e-Pakistan seemed least bothered in implementing Covid-19 Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) as PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz was the only one who requested participants to wear face masks, use hand sanitizers and maintain social distancing amid increasing number of patients and deaths due to the lethal virus.

The traffic flow, especially on the routes of rallies which were taken out from almost 100 different places of the city, remained disturbed due to ineffective deployment of traffic wardens and police patrolling squads through there were significant threats of targeted militant attacks.

Addressing the gathering via a video-link from London, PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif once again lashed out at the establishment saying that political engineering factories (intelligence agencies) must be stopped and asked who will be answerable for the government's bad governance?

"He (PM Imran) says I would not give an NRO. Who is asking you for an NRO? You and Aleema Khan got an NRO from Saqib Nisar for yourself," regretted Nawaz while referring to the premier.

He said his only crime is that he speaks the "truth" adding that he was fighting for the "people". He said that his "narrative" was the same as Quaid-i-Azam's. Talking about the establishment, Nawaz said: "They say, don't take names. Tell me what should we do? Is Imran Khan alone responsible for the predicament the country is in?"

PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz while taking jibe at Prime Minister Imran Khan for challenging the PDM to gather enough people to fill up the Minar-e-Pakistan grounds said that the "puppet and selected" prime minister should see that not only the grounds were jam-packed but the 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. About the Panama Papers case, she 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". While questioning PM Imran's offer for a dialogue through the Parliament, Maryam asked who was behind the operations of the House. "The incumbent premier will have to go because he had ruined the country's economy and 'lies' to the people daily.

Calling the premier as Tabedar (obedient) Khan instead of 'Imran Niazi', the PML-N vice president said that though the prime minister had been saying for the past three years that he would not give an NRO but in reality he is now seeking an NRO from Nawaz Sharif and the people.

She added that it was unfortunate that seven patients in Peshawar's Khyber Teaching Hospital had died due to shortage of oxygen supply and question the PTI government's performance in the health sector. Maryam also refused to hold talks with both the government and the military establishment at "any cost" announcing that the PDM would now organize a long march towards Islamabad expectedly in the coming January's last week or February's first week to oust the "puppet and selected" PTI government that had stolen the people's mandate.

PPP Chairman Bilawal-Bhutto Zardari said the country was suffering because of the 'fake, incompetent and illegitimate government' adding that the PPP 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.

Terming the establishment as non-democratic forces, Bilawal added that "selectors" have been conspiring against the public and have been forming governments of their choice. The incumbent government was brought to power through the "umpire's signal", he added.

"Selectors, listen, you will have to listen to the public's voice, you will have to accept their decisions [...] the time for dialogue is gone, now there will be a long march," the PPP chairperson declared. "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," he vowed.

Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Fazal (JUI-F) chief Maulana Fazal-ur-Rehman said that the wounds inflicted by the rigging done by the establishment for this illegal government, the dirty role they played [to seize] this illegal power are getting deeper. He expressed that if the establishment did not stop its interface in civil matters, a day will come in near future when people will be standing in front of the armed forces. "I wanted to alert and caution the armed 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 maintained.

Jamiat Ulema-i-Pakistan's (JUP) Awais Noorani told PM Imran to submit his resignation and called upon the PTI supporters to 'rebel' against the ruling party. Awami National Party Ameer Haider Khan Hoti also condemned the ruling PTI saying 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.

Declaring that terrorism was imposed upon the Pakhtun people, he said that Pakhtun people were the ones who were killed and were defamed as well. 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 added.

Requesting the PDM leaders to stand by the Pakhtun people, Hoti 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 was of the view that the PDM's 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 disturbance in Balochistan today," he said, adding that his party had been struggling against the "khalayi makhlooq" against whom the people have gathered today.

He asked who is responsible for the cruelty and injustice over the past 70 years. "It is not them, but the politicians and the people of the big province who have gathered in this venue today. 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," he commented.

According to Mengal, around 10,000 Baloch people were still missing, adding that all the people of Balochistan want was to be treated and respected as humans. While speaking about the provincial autonomy, he said if the provinces were autonomous in Pakistan Bangladesh would not have been created. In Gwadar, he added, people were being "divided like East Germany and West Germany" in the name of development. Many other senior opposition leaders also spoke on the occasion.

Earlier in the day, the opposition leaders arrived at Minar-e-Pakistan from PML-N leader Ayyaz Sadiq's house, where they had gathered for a lunch and last minute discussions. The supporters of the opposition parties had started gathering at the venue since last night while many coming in from other cities had begun assembling at the various interchanges leading to Lahore early in the morning.

On December 8, the PDM had announced that all parliamentarians belonging to its constituent parties would submit their resignations from the national and provincial assemblies to their respective party chiefs by December 31 - finally opting for a last-ditch attempt to send the PTI-led government packing. However, the move could not make a difference.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2020

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