–Maryam, Bilawal seek public support to restore ‘real’ democracy
Despite the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government asking the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) to delay its Quetta rally in light of terrorism threats, the anti-government alliance proceeded with its third jalsa on Sunday.
PDM chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman had earlier said that the Quetta jalsa would be held on Sunday at any cost, and lambasted the incumbent government for being incapable of providing sufficient security to the rally.
“This government is deaf as it does not hear the pains and shrieks of poor masses,” he said on Saturday during a press conference in Kalat.
Similarly, the Balcohistan government had asked the PDM to delay the rally, but the request fell on deaf ears.
“Terrorists are targeting political leadership in Balochistan,” Liaquat Shahwani, the Balochistan government spokesperson, had said during a news conference.
The PDM organisers, including DG Izhar Ikram, had said that security arrangements have been made keeping in mind the threat issued by the National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA).
Despite the threats, the rally kicked off at the Ayub Stadium in Quetta.
Qaumi Watan Party (QWP) chief Aftab Sherpao told the crowd that the elections would be held soon, and the people of Balochistan would be able to choose their own representatives. He added that the QWP was ready to “render any sacrifices” to send the PTI packing,
Another speaker, Awami National Party (ANP) Acting President Ameer Haider Khan Hoti said that the government had betrayed the people, and the Pashtuns and Baloch should unite to fight for their rights.
He added that the people of Balochistan had the “first right” on Gwadar, and should be able to reap the benefits of the port city.
Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Vice President Maryam Nawaz addressed the crowd while wearing a Balochi dress, which she said was a symbol of her love for the province.
“I love the people of Balochistan more than the people of Punjab,” she said, while the attendees chanted, “Charon subon ki awaz Maryam Nawaz, Maryam Nawaz (The voice of four provinces Maryam Nawaz, Maryam Nawaz)”.
The people at the rally also chanted Maryam and her father Nawaz Sharif’s slogan, “Vote ko izzat do (give respect to vote)”.
She lamented the acts of the French wherein the officials of France had shown blasphemous caricatures of Holy Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him) on government buildings. She asked the people to raise their arms to show their protest of such acts.
Talking about domestic issues, Maryam said that the real reason behind Balochistan’s problems is that the vote was not given respect.
“The reason you are deprived of food and shelter is that your vote is not respected. Those who rule you are not answerable to you but to someone else, someone else pulls their strings,” she said.
Furthermore, she accused China–Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) Chairman Lt Gen (r) Asim Saleem Bajwa of “toying with the respect of vote” and interfering in politics during his tenure as an officer in Balochistan, and asked him to step down from his post.
She said that the PML-N government, in its tenure, had given scholarships to the students of Balochistan in Punjab’s universities. Maryam added that the incumbent government has abolished the scholarships. “The students of Balochistan and Punjab are close to my heart,” she added.
She also commended the Supreme Court’s (SC) decision regarding the investigation into the assets of Justice Qazi Faez Isa, who originally hails from Balochistan. She asked for similar justice to be given to the deposed Islamabad High Court (IHC) judge, Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui, “who was removed for speaking the truth.” Siddiqui was removed in 2018 after being found guilty of misconduct by the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) over a speech he gave before the Rawalpindi District Bar Association.
PML-N supreme leader Nawaz Sharif addressed the rally via video-link, and was pleased with the turnout, stating that “no one will be able to violate the vote’s respect now”.
Nawaz claimed that he was disliked by some people as he was the “elected representative of the people”, and said that he had been disqualified from his position “over some flimsy charge”.
Speaking on the arrest of his son-in-law, and the way his daughter’s hotel room had been entered, Nawaz remarked, “Such things prove my point that there is a state above the state”.
“On whose order is the privacy of people violated? On whose orders are doors broken down? If even the province’s chief minister doesn’t know, then who is behind it?” he asked the gathering.
Nawaz said that he did not want to name the people that had “made Pakistan hollow from inside and out” as he did not want to defame the army, but he did call out Chief Of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa and Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Director General Lt Gen Faiz Hameed to “account” for the country’s current situation.
“General Bajwa, you will have to answer for record rigging in the 2018 elections, for horse-trading in the parliament, for making Imran Niazi prime minister against people’s wishes and [by] tearing apart the Constitution and laws, for pushing people towards poverty and hunger,” Nawaz said.
Meanwhile, Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, who also attended the rally via video-link, said in his address that the people of Balochistan are living in miserable conditions despite having plenty of natural resources.
“What kind of democracy is this where no one including the media and people are free?” he asked and added that the nation wants freedom from poverty and elimination of inflation, and are demanding to restore “real” democracy.
Speaking on inflation, the PPP leader said that the prices of all necessities including medicine prices have increased manifolds under the PTI government.
“Will Balochistan’s people always be neglected?” asked the PPP leader. “No matter which province, the people want freedom and a democratic government. They want freedom from poverty and unemployment, to be able to think for themselves and breathe.”
Furthermore, he said that his father, during his tenure as president, had fulfilled Balochistan’s wish of provincial autonomy. “[Asif Ali Zardari had] not only asked for forgiveness [from Balochistan] on behalf of the state but started something that could have provided what they were deprived of,” he said.
Speaking on the issue of Captain (r) Safdar Awan’s arrest, he said, “I salute Sindh police who refused to be a Tiger Force of Prime Minister Imran Khan.”
Bilawal claimed that the premier wanted to turn all law enforcement agencies, including Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and Pakistan Rangers, into his Tiger Force.
The PPP chairman also criticised the government for not laying the Pakistan Islands Development Authority (PIDA) Ordinance. “The incumbent govt wants to seize the islands of Balochistan and Sindh,” he said.
Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) chief Fazl, during his address, said that JUI-F had played its part in protecting the 18th Amendment and, by holding ‘all parties conferences’ in all provinces, had succeeded in creating a consensus.
He critiqued the incumbent government’s handling of foreign affairs, stating that they had sold Kashmir and that they had been “annoying” China, Iran, and Afghanistan.
Referring to the economic situation of the country, the JUI-F chief said that the survival of the states depends on the economy and not just the defence – while admitting that the latter was important as well.
He also condemned the recent arrest of PML-N leader Safdar as well as the detention of Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM) lawmaker Moshin Dawar at the Quetta airport last month. Furthermore, regarding the apex court’s ruling of Justice Isa case, he said that the government has lost its moral legitimacy since the court ruling.
“Even today, if our establishment stops backing [this] fake government, if it apologises before the nation that ‘we did wrong during the elections and ruined Pakistan’s mandate’, we are ready to hold it in esteem,” he said.