Pak Opposition alliance holds its final rally, announces long march to force PM Khan to resign


Team Udayavani, Dec 14, 2020, 8:16 AM IST

Lahore: Pakistan’s Opposition alliance on Sunday held its final anti-government rally in Lahore despite a ban on the gathering of more than 300 people owing to an increase in COVID-19 cases across the country, with top coalition leaders announcing a long march to Islamabad to force Prime Minister Imran Khan to resign.

Addressing the rally held at Lahore”s Minar-e-Pakistan via video link, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz supremo Nawaz Sharif once again lashed out at the armed forces, accusing them of being involved in political matters.

“Stop political engineering factories in agencies,” said the 70-year-old three-time former prime minister.

He has repeatedly blamed Army chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa and spy agency ISI chief Lt Gen Faiz Hameed for Pakistan”s current situation.

“They say, don”t take names? Tell me, what should we do? Is Imran Khan alone responsible for the predicament the country is in?” Sharif asked.

Sharif, who is entangled in a number of corruption cases, has been in London since November last year after the Lahore High Court granted him permission to go abroad for four weeks for treating the heart disease and an immune system disorder.

Pakistan’s powerful Army has denied meddling in politics. Prime Minister Khan also denies that the Army helped him win the election in 2018.

“My crime is that I speak the truth,” Sharif said, adding that he was fighting for the people.

He said that his “narrative” was the same as Quaid-i-Azam”s, referring to Pakistan’s founder Mohammad Ali Jinnah.

His daughter and PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz launched a frontal attack on ISI and judiciary for ousting her father and imposing ”inept and incompetent” prime minister on the country.

“Former chief justice Asif Saeed Khosa had asked Imran Khan (in 2016) to bring his petition related to Panama Papers and then ousted Nawaz Sharif (in 2017) based on an iqama (work permit) through a fixed match,” 46-year-old Maryam said, referring to Sharif’s disqualification as Prime Minister in 2017 by the Supreme Court in the Panama Papers case.

Three corruption cases – Avenfield properties, Flagship investment and Al-Azizia steel mills – were registered against the Sharif family by the anti-corruption body in 2017 following a judgment by the Supreme Court that disqualified him.

In her speech, Maryam named two former ISI chiefs — Gen Shuja Pasha and Gen Zaheerul Islam — for launching Khan in 2011 and organising his 2014 Islamabad sit-in to oust her father.

“Former ISI chief Gen Pasha launched Imran Khan in October 2011 at a rally in Minar-i-Pakistan and former ISI chief Zaheerul Islam sponsored Imran”s Islamabad sit-in against the elected government of Nawaz Sharif in 2014,” she said.

Maryam also claimed that a retired ISI Colonel is controlling Pakistan”s lower and upper houses.

“In Islamabad, everyone knows that a retired ISI Colonel is running the Parliament (National Assembly) and Senate,” she alleged.

Maryam also questioned why no action against Lt Gen Asim Saleem Bajwa, the chairman China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), has been taken as yet for making billions and setting up a famous pizza chain.

She said the institutions should refrain from interfering in politics.

“Imran Khan is only interested in saving his job by serving his masters. This obedient Khan will have to go now,” she said.

Terming Imran Khan a ”Pharoah”, she said this selected premier has become a liability and even those who brought him to power are worried.

“The selectors now have realised how much incompetent and inept this man is. The time has come to get rid of him,” she said.

Maryam urged supporters to answer the call for a march to Islamabad, while Pakistan People’s Party Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari formally announced that the movement is now headed to Islamabad.

Jamiat Ulema Islam leader and PDM chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman said the march will take place late January or early February.

Earlier, a number of workers of the coalition parties reached Minar-i-Pakistan. They broke the locks of its main gate, placed chairs and installed lights for the much-hyped power show of the Opposition.

PDM”s Minar-i-Pakistan public meeting was the last one in its first phase of rallies that had begun over two months ago.

The alliance has announced that all Opposition parties will resign from the national and provincial assemblies to pressure the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf government to hold fresh elections.

Earlier, Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar had asked the PDM to delay its rally in light of ”terror threat alerts” and the coronavirus situation.

Special Assistant to the Chief Minister on Information Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan said in a tweet the government had intelligence reports that there was a threat to the PDM rally.

“If any untoward incident takes place at the PDM rally, the Opposition parties will be responsible,” she warned. Police in Lahore had booked more than 3,000 workers of the PML-N for violating COVID-19 guidelines during this week”s meetings held here by Maryam, he said.

The PDM has been formed against the Pakistan Army”s interference in politics and installing “puppet” Prime Minister Khan through a manipulated election.

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