Even though the organisers of the jalsa had asked the attendees to reach the venue at 2pm, hundreds of supports already started gathering there early on despite the cold weather, enthusiastically chanting slogans, carrying flags, and warming up the atmosphere.
PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz addressed the gathering and currently PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari is delivering a speech.
PDM chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman is due to speak shortly.
Maryam, welcoming supporters to the gathering, said: “Who would say in their pharoah-like tone that the PML-N should dare and fill the venue?”
“To them I say: Come and behold this full venue. The entire area surrounding the venue is full.”
“Thousands could not find space here,” she said.
Maryam also urged the supporters to give a warm welcome to leaders of other provinces that have arrived. She said that Lahore will be the binding force for all provinces.
Lauding the people of Lahore for the welcome they had shown her in the days leading up to the rally, she said that every nook and corner of the city had turned into a jalsa venue in the lead up to today. She said she will never be able to repay the people for the kindnesses shown to her in all her life.
She also requested the men present to respect and take care of and protect the women in attendance.
“I have received word that the media is being told to portray as if the rally failed. I know who is making these calls,” Maryam said, adding: “The people of Lahore have thrown this anti-people government off from the heights of Minar-e-Pakistan.”
The PML-N vice president also mocked Prime Minister Imran Khan, shaking her head in the negative, quoting him as saying: “I won’t give an NRO.”
She said that the prime minister is now asking the PDM and Nawaz Sharif for an NRO. “Tell me people of Lahore, will you give him an NRO?”
“Remember this Imran Khan, Taabedaar Khan,” she said, referring to loud chants by the gathering.
“I was about to add one more thing but you have started cheering at the mention of Taabedaar Khan,” she added.
Maryam said that far more dangerous than COVID-19 is ” COVID-18 Taabedaar Khan Imran Khan”. She said that because of “COVID-18” Pakistan’s progress, along with its wheat, sugar, gas, electricity, salaries, medicines have all been put under “quarantine”.
She said that the prime minister claims that the Opposition “do not know him” but not only do the Opposition “know him”, so does every child, their mothers and the sick, from whose reach medicines have been put out.
The PML-N vice president also played two sets of videos, showing all of the promises made by PM Imran Khan, when the PTI held a jalsa, right under Minar-e-Pakistan.
“When a leader engages in corruption, it is the people who pay with inflation. So who is the real thief?” she asked.
Counting all of the premier’s promises made pre-election, she asked whether all the hospitals and universities that were promised ever came to fruition. “He used to say that PM House and Governor House would be turned into a university. But did it happen?”
She lamented the mismanagement at Khyber Teaching Hospital where six lives were lost due to a lack of availability of oxygen tanks.
Maryam said that the prime minister would say he will never take a loan. “I will not beg,” she said, quoting him.
“The whole nation saw Taabedaar Khan set new debt records,” she remarked
“When he does not have an answer to Nawaz Sharif’s words, he says Nawaz Sharif is a traitor.”
“Tell me, are any of Nawaz Sharif’s demands unconstitutional?”
She said that the people of Lahore have “decided that Taabedaar Khan has to go”.
Maryam said that Imran Khan is only worried about “saving his job”. She urged the people: “Promise me, if you have to march towards Islamabad, you will march.”
Qaumi Watan Party chairman Aftab Sherpao addressed the gathering, saying that the platform is of the view that domestic and foreign policies have “failed”.
“All institutions have become paralysed. We do not accept the inflation and unemployment and the country’s economic policies,” he said, adding that Pakistan ranks among the countries with the highest inflation in the region.
He lamented the poor clamouring for sugar and wheat.
“Imran Niazi blames the ‘mafia’ for the inflation, but it is you that [helped] the mafia,” he said.
A large stage has been set up on the steps of Minar-e-Pakistan for the leaders while chairs have been set up on the ground at the forefront. Generators have been hooked up and lights have been installed for the rally beside the all-important sound system.
PML-N leaders Marriyum Aurangzeb and Attaullah Tarar, along with other members, inspected the arrangements. Sources said that the bomb-disposal squad has also examined the venue and have greenlit it as safe.
Changes to the entry route
Sources said that the district administration of Lahore has changed the entry routes to the venue ahead of the jalsa. Per the new plan, Gate no.1 will be open to the public, while Gate no. 2 and 3 will be reserved for the VVIPs. Women participants will be allowed to enter the venue through gate no. 4 and 5.
Lunch at Ayaz Sadiq’s house
The PML-N hosted a lunch for the PDM leaders at the residence of former National Assembly speaker Ayaz Sadiq where all PDM leaders were to gather before departing for Minar-e-Pakistan.
Maryam Nawaz, along with Pervez Rasheed, Mohammad Zubair, Musadik Malik, all attended. She was joined by PPP chief Bilawal Bhutto, National Party’s Dr Abdul Malik Baloch and Pashtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) chief Mahmood Khan Achakzai.
Desi murghi was prepared at Fazl’s request. What else was served at the pre-jalsa lunch? Find out here.
‘Help us oust the government’
Speaking to journalists before her departure, she said that the Opposition, along with the masses, will soon “topple the government.”
“We are aware of the problems of the people of Lahore,” she said. “You all should get out of your house for the sake of the country and help us oust this government.”
The senior leadership of the PDM has been warned of a possible “terrorist activity” today.
Lahore police have sent letters to PDM chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman, Maryam Nawaz and lawmakers Khawaja Saad Rafique and Sardar Ayaz Sadiq, and PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari.
“TTP terrorists are coordinating to carry out a terrorist activity on 13 December, 2020. Although details regarding the place of terrorist activity and likely targets is not available, the date (13 December 2020) appears to be significant as a huge public gathering is expected at Minar-e-Pakistan,” read the letter.
It states that after the terrorists failed in their attempt in Peshawar, “they are planning to shift their operatives, required material and logistics towards another place (most likely Lahore)”.
The letter warns that information available suggests that hostile intelligence agencies along with Afghanistan-based Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan have planned to carry out terrorist activities in Punjab particularly in Lahore.
A meeting was held on December 8 on the Western border to “upsurge (sic) terrorist activities in Pakistan”, according to the letter.
These hostile intelligence agencies “may also carry out assassinations of senior political personalities associated with PDM” to create instability in the country, it further warns
“Besides other targets, political and religious personalities or high profile figures of minorities in Punjab Province are on their priority list,” the letter adds.