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October 17, 2020

‘Ocean of people’ march to PDM rally despite ‘obstacles’

Top Story

October 17, 2020

GUJRANWALA/LAHORE/LALAMUSA/ISLAMABAD: PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz on Friday said there was an “ocean of people” marching towards the Pakistan Democratic Movement’s (PDM) first anti-government power show, which was bogged down by the opposition’s claims of the government trying to obstruct the rally while PTI mouthpieces insisted that there was “no intention” of doing so.

As the opposition’s parallel caravans departed — Maryam’s from Jati Umrah, PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari’s from Lala Musa and JUI-F chief and PDM leader Maulana Fazlur Rehman’s from Lahore — scores of people could be seen waving flags as the leaders delivered pointed speeches to their convoys ahead of their arrival in the Jinnah Stadium in Gujranwala.

Inside the stadium, Geo News anchor Hamid Mir estimated that there were 50-60,000 people, who were not necessarily party workers, but just pedestrians curious about why there were so many shipping containers placed along thoroughfares.

In the afternoon, a justice of peace court ordered the removal of all containers blocking the flow of traffic. Separately, the Lahore High Court disposed of a PML-N petitions against the alleged arrest of workers and blockades after the Advocate General Punjab gave assurances that no workers were arrested and they were allowed to participate in the gathering peacefully.

The Punjab government said the containers were there for security purposes. PM’s aide Shahbaz Gill also claimed the government was going so far as to provide hand sanitisers and masks to participants. Punjab Law Minister Basharat Raja said the claims of obstacles were “baseless propaganda”.

Before he departed from Lahore, Fazlur Rehman said the opposition would “restore the sanctity of the vote”, he also claimed that Parliament was not of the people.

In Lala Musa, Bilawal said it was unfortunate that the tactics of a “fascist government is apparent on the ground”. He said Imran Khan should know that he “cannot initiate a case” against hunger and unemployment.

In Jati Umrah, Maryam said she was embarking on this mission as Nawaz Sharif’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 in a tweet addressed to the PML-N supremo.

The ruling party, meanwhile, pilloried the PDM rally, which managed to fill the stadium after government spokesman Shibli Faraz challenged them to do so. On Friday, he accused the PDM of placing the stage “in the middle of the ground” in a speech to Parliament. Hamid Mir, however, told Geo News programme Capital Talk that the stage was towards the back.

Prime Minister Khan, meanwhile, said giving an “NRO”-like concessions to the opposition was an “easy way out”, but described it as the “path to destruction”, Geo News reported. “We have to make difficult decisions and difficult decisions take us forward,” Khan said while addressing an inauguration ceremony at NUST, Islamabad. Khan has accused the opposition of banding together for an NRO.

Punjab Chief Minister Sardar Usman Buzdar said the opposition was “directionless and lacked political acumen”. In a statement, the Chief Minister regretted that the opposition had “no agenda” and said the government was not bothered over public meetings.