Lahore is all geared up for what the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) is calling a “historic and decisive” power show in the 11-party opposition alliance’s movement to oust the PTI-led government.
This is the first time in the recent history of the country that the PML-N is holding a public meeting at Minar-i-Pakistan, the first rally at this venue for PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz.
Similarly, it is PPP Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari’s first appearance at a political gathering at Minar-i-Pakistan. His late mother, former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, held a historic public meeting at Minar-i-Pakistan in 1986.
Along with Maryam and Bilawal, PDM President and chief of the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) Maulana Fazlur has also reached the venue.
Lunch by PML-N
Arrangements were completed early on Sunday and leaders of the parties arrived in the city for the PDM’s final power show of the first phase of its anti-government movement.
Upon arrival, Maryam hosted a lunch at party leader Ayaz Sadiq’s residence in the city.
The lunch was attended by Bilawal and other opposition bigwigs, including Rehman, Balochistan National Party-Mengal (BNP-M) President Sardar Akhtar Mengal and Awami National Party (ANP) central general secretary Mian Iftikhar Hussain.
From there, the leaders left for Minar-i-Pakistan, the venue of the rally.
Earlier in the day, while speaking to reporters while leaving her Jati Umra residence, Maryam said that the public would now “bring down the roof” over the PTI government.
“I want to give a message to the entire Lahore that I am fully aware of your difficulties. People have not come out on the PDM’s call; instead, it is the PDM that has come out on the people’s call. The time has come to give the final push to [the PTI government],” she said, urging people from all sectors to come and attend the rally.
She said this government is “going and the era of Nawaz Sharif’s services is coming”.
In a tweet, she also advised the attendees to “wear a mask for your own safety and that of your dear ones, at all times, before, during and after” the rally.
Earlier, Bilawal’s procession passed through Naseerabad where it was surrounded by party workers.
Rehman met leaders of his party, including Rashid Mehmood Soomro, Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Hyderi and former member of the National Assembly (MNA) Qamaruddin Soomro, at a hotel in Lahore.
The JUI-F leaders briefed Rehman about arrangements for the rally. “Today’s rally at Minar-i-Pakistan will break all previous records,” Rehman said.
Senior PML-N leader Khawaja Saad Rafique, while speaking to attendees at the rally, said that today was a “very important” day.
“We want to end interference in democracies. We want the supremacy of the Constitution and the law. Constant interference puts Pakistan’s [progress] back by 20 years […] When more than 150 resignations are received, how will they (the government) hold by-elections?” he questioned.
Meanwhile, PML-N deputy secretary general Ataullah Tarar said that volunteers have been assigned their duties and they have taken up their positions. “A historic rally is about to happen. The PDM will prove that it is an alliance of the parties representing the people,” he said.
PML-N information secretary Marriyum Aurangzeb said that the day has come that the “selected and vote-stealing government” feared.
She said that people from not only Lahore but all over Pakistan were coming to the rally at Minar-i-Pakistan.
The PDM is expected to announce the “decisive phase” of its struggle against the PTI-led government in today’s public meeting.
A senior PML-N leader said that the next phase of its struggle would begin in January in which the PDM had planned 16 more rallies across the country before the final showdown — a long march on Islamabad and resignations from the national and provincial assemblies.
“We expect that some ‘behind the scenes’ development may take place in January before the PDM goes for a long march,” he said.
The PDM has planned a long march in February if the PTI government does not buckle to the pressure exerted by the opposition alliance.
However, no consensus seems to be in sight over resignations from the national and provincial assemblies at the moment because PPP is still reluctant to say goodbye to the Sindh government.
This matter has been deferred for the time being and the PDM is concentrating on protest rallies.
The government, on the other hand, appears to have changed at the last minute its strategy to handle the rally. The government said it would not stop the people coming from other cities from joining the rally, giving an opportunity to the opposition parties to match Imran Khan’s Oct 2011 public meeting at the same venue.