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ISLAMABAD: The grand show of power by the ruling party: Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) on Sunday appeared to have stolen the spotlight in comparison with the long march by Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) sans Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP).

While the PTI arranged a seemingly huge public gathering at Parade Ground near sector I-8 of Islamabad, Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Fazal (JUI-F), a key player in PDM, picked sector H-9 near Sunday bazaar to flex its political muscle where senior party leaders as well as other opposition stalwarts were scheduled to address their supporters.

But, contrary to the expectations, while hundreds of thousands of PTI supporters showed up at Prime Minister Imran Khan’s call to attend the “Amar Bil Maroof” rally, the turnout at JUI-F’s long march site was drastically thin.

In the evening, the attendance of the participants at the PDM rally somewhat improved. Yet, at one point, the number of public supporters seemed to have been outnumbered by the JUI-F’s baton-armed Ansar-ul-Islam. The personnel of Ansar-ul-Islam, the so-called security wing of JUI-F, cordoned the main stage where the opposition leaders had assembled to make fiery speeches against ruling PTI in general and PM Khan in particular. Barbed wires were also installed around the stage to keep the public at distance amidst the reports that opposition leaders were faced with serious security threats.

‘March 27 power show’ will turn out to be ‘decisive moment’: PM

Maryam Nawaz and Hamza Shehbaz from Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N), who were leading the long march they named “Mehngai Mukao March”— from Lahore to the federal capital—had reached Gujranwala on Saturday night and preferred to spend the entire day there instead of moving towards Islamabad. This was done reportedly on account of notably thin number of supporters who accompanied the two Sharifs in their long march against the government.

The PML-N leadership tried to woo public support for the long march but this strategy did not work as Sharifs had to spend two nights in Gujranwala in a bid to garner enough public before heading to Islamabad.

Moreover, the absence of senior PML-N leaders from the H-9 site was cited as one of the major reasons the PDM failed to put up an impressive show against the government. The long march site mainly had JUI-F supporters with PML-N and PPP leaders as well as workers nowhere to be seen till the filing of this report Sunday night.

After the PM threw a hard-hitting speech against the opposition in the PTI rally, Maulana Fazal-ur-Rehman, the PDM and JUI-F chief, finally arrived at the long march rally site to address his supporters in a speech that was apparently in reaction to Khan’s verbal offensive against the opposition.

“The days of this fake government have been numbered,” Fazal said. “This man (PM) knows that he has to go—so he is creating fictitious stories now,” he said.

JUI-F General Secretary Abdul Ghafoor Haideri said the lawmakers would exercise their democratic right during voting on no-confidence motion against the PM.

“The nation will get rid of PM and his government in a democratic manner,” he said.

The PDM’s long march is scheduled to reach Islamabad today (Monday). It coincides with National Assembly session also taking place today to take up the no-confidence motion against the PM.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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