Maryam, other PDM leaders head to Gujranwala showdown ‘with ocean of people’

Web Desk – October 16, 2020

All eyes are on Gujranwala as top opposition leaders — under the banner of the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) — make their way to the city for the first power show of their anti-government campaign.

PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz left for the rally from her residence at Jati Umra, Lahore. In a tweet after 6pm, she said she had left for Gujranwala at 2pm and still hadn’t been able to cross Shahdara outside Lahore.

Participants of the Gujranwala rally wave flags on Friday. — Screengrab Shehbaz Sharif Facebook
Participants of the Gujranwala rally wave flags on Friday. — Screengrab Shehbaz Sharif Facebook

“There is an ocean of people front, back, right & left. This is unprecedented,” she wrote, sharing pictures and videos of the supporters accompanying her convoy.

Meanwhile, Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam chief Fazlur Rehman is still hours away from the venue, while according to TV reports, PPP Chairperson Bilawal-Bhutto Zardari’s convoy has entered the limits of Gujranwala city. Bilawal energised his supporters through a brief talk during the journey at Wazirabad.

Hundreds of supporters and workers had started gathering at the Jinnah Stadium, Gujranwala, in the afternoon after arriving from different cities in the form of rallies. They are chanting slogans and waving flags of the various opposition parties that are part of the PDM alliance, as opposition anthems are played on loudspeakers.

Participants await the arrival of PDM leaders. — DawnNewsTV
Participants await the arrival of PDM leaders.

A number of politicians, including PML-N’s Marriyum Aurangzeb and veteran politician Javed Hashmi, are already present at the venue.

The stadium has a capacity of 35,000. Nearly 10,000 seats have been arranged in the ground, while some 25,000 people can be accommodated in the various enclosures at the stadium.

Maryam departs as ‘Nawaz’s foot soldier’

While addressing supporters before her departure, Maryam said the opposition has “come out for the rights of the 220 million people” and for the livelihoods of the poor, traders and labourers of Pakistan.

She urged the people of Gujranwala to join the rally and asked law-enforcement agencies, police and the administration “not to come in the way of the people”.

In a tweet, Maryam said she was embarking on this “mission as Nawaz’s foot soldier”.

“I have dedicated myself to your struggle, your mission for Pakistan and its people. May Allah be with us and may we return triumphant and victorious. Pakistan Zindabad,” she said while addressing the PML-N supremo who is also expected to address the rally.

‘Opposition deliberately delayed departure’

Federal Minister for Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry claimed that the opposition leaders had deliberately “left their homes late” in anticipation of a low turnout of supporters.

“Hopefully they will learn a lesson from this failure and adopt the correct path,” he said in a tweet.

Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Political Communication Dr Shahbaz Gill announced through a tweet that the government will provide drinking water, masks and hand sanitisers to the participants of the Gujranwala rally.

“Innocent people are being used in the effort to protect family corruption,” he alleged.

Opposition will restore sanctity of vote: Fazl

JUI-F chief and PDM President Maulana Fazlur Rehman said the opposition was committed to restoring the sanctity of the people’s vote.

Speaking to the media in Lahore before his departure to the venue, the JUI-F chief said: “We don’t have personal enmity with anyone. But it should be specified that Pakistan belongs to Pakistanis. It does not belong to Western entities.

JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman leads prayers during their journey to Gujranwala. — DawnNewsTV
JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman leads prayers during their journey to Gujranwala.

“Pakistan did not come into power to be ruled by the global establishment.

“The opposition […] is committed and there should be no impression that any of the parties are waiting for an agreement. All [parties] are committed and are united in restoring [the sanctity] of the people’s vote.”

Rehman added that the only legislation done during the past two years of the PTI government has been under the Financial Action Task Force’s conditions. “The parliament’s sovereignty is not considered […] and the purpose of the law mentioned on the bill clearly states that legislation is being done under the FATF’s conditions.

A view of the stage set up at the rally. — DawnNewsTV
A view of the stage set up at the rally

“If we do this, then our parliament is negating its own sovereignty.” He added that the parliament was not the people’s and had been brought under by the global establishment and was legislating according to its own agenda.

“To defeat such governance, all of the country’s opposition parties are under one forum and will address the nation as one,” he said.

Time for PM Imran to go, says Bilawal

Meanwhile, PPP Chairman Bilawal-Bhutto Zardari said that the current government’s anxiety was before the nation. “Our workers are being harassed, FIRs are being lodged and leaders’ houses are being besieged,” he said while speaking to the media in Lala Musa, from where he was meant to lead a convoy to the venue in Gujranwala.

PPP Chairman Bilawal-Bhutto Zardari. — DawnNewsTV
PPP Chairman Bilawal-Bhutto Zardari. 

Bilawal said that despite the government’s best efforts it could not address pressing issues such as hunger and unemployment. “The whole country will see the rally in Gujranwala. The time for the selected prime minister to go is now here.”

He also warned of pre-poll rigging in the Gilgit-Baltistan elections, adding that he will monitor the process. “If there is rigging, we will launch a protest from GB to Islamabad.”

Commenting on the convening of sessions of both houses of parliament, Bilawal called the government’s move a “joke”.

Veteran politician Javed Hashmi is among the attendees. — DawnNewsTV
Veteran politician Javed Hashmi is among the attendees

“You saw the rigging they did to pass the FATF legislation. Imran Khan only speaks in parliament in my absence. I think he will do the same today,” he said, accusing the premier of making parliament his jalsagah.

Gujranwala showdown

The recently-formed PDM — which comprises 11 parties including the PML-N, PPP and JUI-F — has vowed to turn the Gujranwala rally into a ‘big power show’, asking Information Minister Shibli Faraz to resign if the venue is jam-packed.

Faraz had challenged the opposition to fill Jinnah Park since the government had allowed it to hold a public gathering. “Tell us will you resign forthwith if the venue is full,” PML-N Senator Pervaiz Rashid asked the minister.

Gujranwala is a stronghold of PML-N, but the party is not banking on that fact alone. The PML-N leadership has mobilised its workers and supporters across Punjab and asked them to reach the venue while Maulana Fazlur Rehman has also committed to bringing a large number of his followers.

PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari arrived in Lala Musa in Gujrat at the residence of Qamar Zaman Kaira on Thursday evening. It is expected that he will lead PPP workers from there to the venue of the rally.

PDM President Maulana Fazl will leave for Gujranwala from Jamia Ashrafia on Ferozepur Road, Lahore. The JUI-F leadership has directed its supporters to reach the rally venue directly.

Leave a Reply