–Maryam Nawaz warns ‘institutions’ not to confront masses for sake of ‘incompetent PM’
–Bilawal Bhutto says July 25 elections were ‘darkest day’ in history of Pakistan
–Shehbaz Sharif accuses PM Imran of carrying out ‘worst revenge on the pretext of accountability’
QUETTA/KARACHI/PESHAWAR/LAHORE: Major opposition parties on Thursday held countrywide protests against alleged rigging during the last year’s general elections, marking the one-year anniversary as ‘black day’.
The grand opposition alliance, comprising the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F), Awami National Party (ANP) and others, held rallies in Quetta, Karachi, Lahore and Peshawar.
Addressing a mammoth gathering in Quetta’s Ayub Stadium on her first visit since she was disqualified, ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s daughter and PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz warned the powers-that-be not stand with the “incompetent prime minister”.
“Do not to confront the masses for the sake of an ‘incompetent’ prime minister as the country could never prosper unless the true representatives of the people came into power,” Maryam said in her no-holds-barred speech.
“People of Sindh, Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab have grievances with you [institutions] so please stop supporting the incompetent PM,” she said, reminding the unnamed ‘honourable’ institutions that they were the representatives of people, not of the PM.
Alluding to the countrywide protests held by the opposition, she said the PML-N was marking Youm-e-Siyah (black day) because the “mandate of the people was stolen” on July 25 when PTI was “voted” into power. She asked the people of Balochistan to support other provinces in removing the incumbent government.
بلوچستان کی سرزمین پر مریم نواز شریف کا تاریخی استقبال pic.twitter.com/ac7tc1BFgy
— PML(N) (@pmln_org) July 25, 2019
She also claimed that whichever city she holds a public gathering in, “6,000-7,000 people are arrested” there and TV channels are warned against broadcasting her speeches.
The PML-N leader also came down hard on the ruling Balochistan Awami Party (BAP), saying it was imposed upon the people of Balochistan after “snatching” their right to elect their representatives.
She said “true representatives” were coerced to switch loyalties and “fake cases” were instituted against those who refused to comply.
Lauding her father’s past efforts to “honour the vote”, she said Nawaz Sharif could have formed a PML-N government after the 2013 general elections if he had so desired, “but he honoured the vote of Balochistan’s people and made Dr Abdul Malik Baloch the chief minister of Balochistan”.
The PML-N VP also took PM Imran’s government to task for failing to handle the economic crisis, saying the country was in “economic turmoil because of the sanctity of the vote wasn’t upheld”.
She alleged that the premier had “sat silently” when US President Donald Trump, during the former’s recent visit to Washington, stated that the former Pakistani governments had not cooperated with the US.
She reiterated her demand to declare Nawaz Sharif’s conviction null and void as “judge [Arshad Malik] has confessed that he convicted him on false charges”.
Besides Maryam, PkMAP chief Mahmood Achakzai and NP leader Abdul Malik also spoke on the occasion. Security has been beefed up around the stadium.
PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, in his address to a large gathering at Bagh-e-Jinnah, termed July 25 elections the “darkest day” in the history of Pakistan.
He said the PTI government had made life difficult for people by “dropping the bomb of inflation” and downed the image of Pakistan before the international community.
میرے ہاتھ میں حق کا جھنڈا ہے
میرے سر پہ ظلم کاپھندہ ہے
میں مرنے سے کب ڈرتا ہوں
میں موت کی خاطر زندہ ہوں
میرے خون کا سورج چمکے گا
تو بچہ بچہ بولے گا
میں باغی ہوں میں باغی ہوں#یوم_سیاہ#SelectedHakumatNaManzur pic.twitter.com/jkZ2807vDp
— PPP (@MediaCellPPP) July 25, 2019
“And today, we are formally initiating a disobedience drive against the government,” the PPP leader announced.
Bilawal said if the country today has an agreed constitution, “it is Islamic, democratic, federal Constitution of 1973, which was composed by Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto in collaboration with Mufti Mahmood and other parties.”
“We [the PPP] and the PML-N signed the important document of Charter of Democracy, through which we restored the 1973 Constitution with the help of the 18th Constitutional Amendment.
“We, in collaboration with the ANP, provided identity to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa by changing the name of NWFP province. Hasil Bizenjo and his father, Mir Ghous Bux Bizenjo, spent their lives for the rights of the people of Balochistan. Moulana Noorani had always struggled for inter-faith harmony and democracy. Achakzai has also spent his entire life for democracy and rights of nations.
“We have our own political parties, thoughts and political constitutions. And in the past, we had engaged each other in political fights but we all are patriotic Pakistanis,” Bilawal told the crowd.
He said the aforementioned political leaders had fought together for the country’s interest and for the supremacy of democracy.
“Today, we all can see that democracy in Pakistan is in danger. Our federation is being targeted.
“Pakistan is facing so many problems that a single political party or politician cannot resolve them. And today, once again, we are united,” the PPP chairperson said.
He thanked Ayaz Sadiq, Abdul Ghafoor Haideri of the JUI-F, Senator Raza Mohammad Raza of the PkMAP, Amal Wali of the ANP, Mohammad Baloch of the National Party and other political leaders for participating in the rally.
Lahore’s public meeting was presided over by PML-N President and Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif at Mall Road.
Lahore : Chairing cross right now pic.twitter.com/pp1Tks1BjD
— PML(N) (@pmln_org) July 25, 2019
Shehbaz strongly criticised the prime minister for his political and economic policies and what he called “the worst revenge on the pretext of accountability”.
He alleged that on July 25, 2018, the worst-ever election rigging in the history took place. “From Chitral to Karachi, votes were counted in the absence of polling agents,” he added.
The PML-N president also presented a comparison between the prices of bread during the tenure of the PML-N and the incumbent government. “What is the price of a roti today — Rs15,” he said while addressing the prime minister and recalled that it was available against Rs5 during the tenure of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif.
“During the tenure of Nawaz Sharif, the prices of medicines were reasonable and were made available free of cost in government-run hospitals, while today, traders, livelihood and even voices are suppressed,” he added.
“Tens of thousands of people have become jobless, do you want more joblessness and more expensive bread — if no, then there is only one way, dislodge Imran Niazi.”
PPP Punjab president Qamar Zaman Kaira also addressed the rally.
A large contingent of police and anti-riot force personnel were stationed around Mall Road, where heavy rainfall affected preparations.
Earlier, it was reported that the Punjab government had denied permission to the opposition to hold a rally on The Mall.
The ‘black day’ started in Peshawar with a public gathering at Motorway Chowk on Ring Road in Peshawar alongside members of opposition parties, including JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman, Qaumi Watan Party Chairman Aftab Sherpao, Awami National Party President Asfandyar Wali Khan and PML-N senior leader Ahsan Iqbal.
Speaking on the occasion, Ahsan Iqbal lashed out at the ruling PTI for being unable to run the country.
“The government is incompetent and [it] has neither vision nor team of professionals for governing [the state],” said Iqbal while addressing the rally. “The PTI had said it will not take foreign loans but it went to almost every nation for this purpose,” he said.
He lamented that Imran Khan also went to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) despite lambasting previous PML-N government for taking the same route.
In a similar vein, Asfandyar Wali Khan called the incumbent government selected.
“No matter how many times the National Assembly speaker restricts us calling it a selected government we will call it what it is,” he said.
Responding to allegations of him possessing undeclared overseas assets, the ANP chief said that he should be prosecuted if anything is proven against him.
Local leaders and workers of the PML-N carried out a protest rally in front of the National Press Club in the federal capital.
Participants of the rally, which included local leaders of the JUI-F and PkMAP, chanted slogans against Prime Minister Imran and his government. Police and other security personnel were present at the protest site.
Addressing the rally, PkMAP Islamabad president Abdul Qayyum Achakzai alleged that the PTI government had promised “change” but instead imposed taxes worth Rs750 billion on the people after coming into power.
He claimed that supporters of his party were unable to join the opposition rally in Balochistan because roads across the province had allegedly been blocked. “We strongly condemn [the move],” he added.