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August 10, 2017

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Nawaz sets off pre-election power show

ISLAMABAD: Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, in his epic political journey from the Punjab House (Islamabad) along with a huge caravan comprising hundreds of vehicles and thousands of supporters towards his hometown, Lahore, on Wednesday showed his political power before the general elections to be held in 2018.

The pace of the caravan was so slow that it took five hours to reach Faizabad from the Punjab House.So it is yet not clear how much time it would take to reach Lahore.The caravan was showered with flower petals at different places on way to Rawalpindi as people danced to the drumbeats.

The especially built blast-resistant container having 37 sound speakers arrived at the Punjab House at 10:15am and former prime minister Nawazcaravan at 12:00pm. Before start of the journey Nawaz Sharif took breakfast along with senior party leaders at the Punjab House. Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi arrived at the Punjab House at 11:30 where he held a meeting with Nawaz Sharif that continued for almost 30 minutes. 

The party members who were also present on the occasion included Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KP) Governor Iqbal Zafar Jhagra, Pervaiz Rasheed, Dr Asif Kirmani, Ahsan Iqbal and many others. He also discussed the strategy with them focusing on the route of the caravan, his addresses to the rallies and duration of the journey till its culmination at Data Darbar, Lahore. 

Nawaz Sharif left the Punjab House at 12:00pm and reached D-Chowk where a large number of workers started raising slogans on his arrival. Special Nawaz Sharif Force comprising staunch party workers from NA-107 were moving along with the container of Nawaz Sharif. The bomb disposal squad was continuously searching at all locations from where Nawaz Sharif was to pass through with his caravan. The caravan of Nawaz Sharif comprising hundreds of vehicles and thousands of workers who were moving on foot first stayed at D-Chowk where PML-N local leaders welcomed all of its participants. Then it headed towards Zero Point via Khyber Plaza but its pace was very slow due to which those who were present at a reception camp set up near the bridge between sector H-8 and Shakarparian had to wait for hours to become part of the caravan. When caravan reached this bridge Dr Tariq Fazal Chaudhry along with party workers raised slogans like 'Jo dil me bas raha hai hakoomat usi ki hai (Who lives in the heart rules the country). Nawaz Sharif got into the container before entering Rawalpindi via Faizabad because the security personnel advised him to stay inside as the roads were not so wide like Islamabad and rush of supporters also increased considerably. He had all the arrangements in the container like small bedroom, washroom and audio system to speak to the supporters while sitting inside.

 Big crowds of supporters thronged the capital to join in the rally, and set up camps along the route he was expected to take. "Nawaz Sharif is still our prime minister," PNL-N worker Niaz Ahmad told Reuters, who wore a lion look-alike costume and chanted, "Lion, Lion!" referring to the PML-N election symbol.The event remained largely peaceful.

Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi said the former leader was alert to security threats. "The bigger a leader is, the bigger the threat is," Abbasi told Geo TV. "The Supreme Court´s judgement to disqualify him is disputed, so people have not accepted it," Sharif supporter Arshad Iftikhar, a retired government official, told AFP.

The supporters and workers of the PML-N had set up reception camps on both the sides of Murree Road from Faizabad to Kutchehry Chowk. They were cheering and dancing on the party songs that were played with amplifiers. The youngsters were so charged that their passion and love for their leader seemed to be boundless. Despite repeated resistance from the security staff, the workers were constantly trying to get near to the car of Nawaz Sharif to have a glimpse of their leader. Nawaz Sharif most of the time avoided to ride on container and instead used his car and time and again waved his hand to the party workers. 

Khwaja Saad Rafique, Abid Sher Ali and Dr Tariq Fazal Chaudhry themselves got hold of mikes at the reception camps to mobilise the participants of the caravan. They chanted slogans in favour of Nawaz Sharif such as "Dekho dekho kon aya sher aya sher aya (Look who comes--lion comes). The police vans were deployed all over the Murree Road and the policemen were keeping vigil of the route of the caravan. One side of Murree Road was occupied by the PML-N workers due to which the traffic wardens allowed the motorists to use its other side for two-way traffic. The caravan of Nawaz Sharif reached 6th Road at 9:00pm but he was yet to speak to the party workers through the sound system installed in the container.

Earlier, Nawaz Sharif said that Pakistan had immense potential to grow in the future. Before departing the Punjab House, the former premier spoke to a foreign news agency and said Pakistan had done exceedingly well in the last four years.

He added that the country was marching forward in every sector and Pakistan’s economy started galloping with a 5.3 percent growth rate in 2016. “We were aiming to achieve a 6 percent growth rate this fiscal year and I believe that there is great potential for further increase in growth rate because the investments taking place in Pakistan are colossal,” Nawaz said. “The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor project is also moving forward at a very fast pace,” he added.

Touching upon the problems Pakistan was facing when PML-N came into power in 2013, the former premier said his government inherited three challenges. “The power crisis was at its peak and by the grace of God, we have been able to resolve that to a great extent,” he said. By early next year this problem would be fully resolved, he asserted.

Meanwhile, according to a private TV channel Nawaz Sharif said that he wished that Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi must continue as premier till the end of the government’s tenure.

“It is my wish that Shahid Khaqan Abbasi remains prime minister till the end of the tenure,” Nawaz said in his brief remarks after a high-level party meeting before departing for his GT Road rally.

The former prime minister expressed his confidence in the newly-elected premier hoping Abbasi would complete the work that he [Nawaz] had started.

Nawaz also said that his brother Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif is the pride of Pakistan and Punjab adding that his work in the province had become a role model for others. “Shahbaz Sharif is the heart of Punjab and the pride of Pakistan. He has made Punjab a role model [for others],” Nawaz said. The former prime minister said his journey for Lahore via the GT Road had been organised so that he could express gratitude to the masses for their support to him and his party.

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