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PESHAWAR: The Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) held its power show here on Sunday without the government permission and its leaders asked the state institutions to focus on national defence and stay away from ‘political activities’ and tolerate criticism.
Addressing a huge rally here, the PDM leaders claimed that the end of the government was near and they would continue their struggle from the united front till the ouster of the rulers. "We have covered most of the distance and our destination is quite close. All political leaders and workers would show steadfastness to make this movement a great success," said Maulana Fazlur Rehman, the head of the 11-party alliance in his speech to the gathering.
He said they were not ready to make any compromise on their rights as they were waging that war for the rights of all Pakistanis. He said retreat from the battlefield was Gunah-e-Kabira [major sin] and the PDM would not stop without achieving its target. He warned that any institution found interfering in political set-up of the country would be named openly.
The opposition parties managed to arrange a big gathering despite all the efforts of the government to stop it, threat alerts and harsh weather conditions. The roads leading to the public meeting venue had been closed down miles away so that a minimum number of people could attend the gathering.
Prominent among those who addressed the gathering were Pakistan People's Party Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, head of Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party Mahmood Khan Achakzai, Awami National Party Vice-President Ameer Haider Hoti and General Secretary Mian Iftikhar Hussain, President Qaumi Watan Party Aftab Ahmad Khan Sherpao, head of Jamiat Ahle-Hadees Prof Sajid Mir, head of National Party Abdul Malik, provincial president Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Ameer Muqam, Sardar Akhtar Mengal and others.
PML-N leader Maryam Nawaz Sharif had to leave the gathering without address after she was informed about the demise of her grandmother. She, in her brief remarks, asked the participants to pray for her grandmother and family and left the venue.
Maulana Fazlur Rehman came down hard on the government, which he repeatedly referred to as "illegitimate, illegal, incompetent, selected and election stealer”. He said that getting rid of the rulers was the only way to save the country from a possible debacle. "Imran Khan should not become the Gorbachev of Pakistan. The way Gorbachev led Russia to disintegration, Imran Khan is also moving in the same direction," he alleged.
The incompetent rulers destroyed the national economy within two years of their rule, he said, adding the survival of states depend on their economies. He added that two years back when the previous government completed its term, the GDP growth rate was 5.50 per cent, which had been envisaged as 6.5pc for the next year. "But when this gang of illegitimate people took power, the growth rate witnessed a sharp downslide to 1.8 per cent during the first year of their rule and to 0.4 per cent in the second year," he said. The JUI-F chief said the State Bank of Pakistan, in its recent report, showed the real face of the rulers to the masses by stating that for the first time since 1951, growth rate has come down to 0.4 per cent. "And in such a dismal situation, the rulers say that they are getting positive signs of economic improvement. I am wondering where they are getting the signs from," he added.
He said that the PDM arranged successful power shows in Gujranwala, Karachi and Quetta against the selected government. "But here in Peshawar, people have held a referendum against the rulers," he said. The PDM head said that the government had gone berserk after the mammoth gatherings organised by the political parties. "The opposition parties would stay in the field and continue their struggle till ouster of the "illegitimate" rulers," he declared.
He said that the government came to power after the massively rigged elections in 2018. He maintained that all political parties rejected the engineered elections and raised their voices against it. "But now the voice against the illegal rulers has become the voice of the common man. It has become a unanimous voice of the entire nation and everyone wants to get rid of the government," he argued. The Maulana said the opposition parties had great respect for the national institutions, especially the armed forces, but they too should focus their attention on national defence and stay away from political activities.
"We would respect the army and institutions if they are defence institutions. But if they try to play a political role, they would have to tolerate criticism," he stressed. The institutions should stop backing the government, he added.
He said the internal as well external policies of the current rulers were a total failure. "None of the neighbouring countries and other states of the world including our one time good friends want to maintain cordial ties with Pakistan," he claimed.
The Maulana ridiculed Imran Khan's rhetoric about NRO and said: "So ugly is your NRO that we would never accept it. We would never ask any NRO from you. We curse your NRO a hundred times. And now you are seeking NRO from us," he added.
He said human rights were badly trampled during the rule of the current government. "The issue of missing persons has deteriorated further. Baloch, Sindhis, Pashtuns, Punjabis and Kashmiris are all suffering from the flawed policies of the rulers," he added.
The Maulana said the rulers made compromises over Kashmir and now they were shedding crocodile tears. "Imran says that they would declare Gilgit-Baltistan as a province of the country. It is true that the people of Gilgit-Baltistan are part of Pakistan and the people of Kashmir want accession with Pakistan. But making them part of the country before giving them the right of self-determination is tantamount to changing national frontiers," he pointed out.
He said the opposition parties were united on a single platform against the government and their destination was near.
The Maulana expressed condolences over the demise of the mother of Nawaz Sharif and Shahbaz Sharif and offered prayers for the departed soul. He also offered prayers for the late Peshawar High Court Chief Justice Waqar Ahmad Seth.
Earlier in his speech, PPP Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said the opposition alliance would continue its protest movement till the removal of the present 'selected government' by the end of January next year.
Bilawal Bhutto said the opposition parties under the banner of PDM would not only continue to struggle against undemocratic and selected governments but also fight the coronavirus pandemic in the country. He said the government felt the severity of coronavirus pandemic during the opposition rallies.
The PPP leader said that opposition parties' protest rally in Peshawar had proved to be a referendum against the PTI government and "now the rulers have no justification to remain in power." He said now all decisions would be made by people. He said now everyone would have to succumb to people’s decision. Only people’s opinion matters; neither of Pindi nor of Aabpara, the PPP chairman said. He said that now people would decide who would rule them, and how the economy and foreign policy of the country would run.
The PPP leader also criticised the federal government for not initiating alternative route for China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) passing through Gilgit-Chitral and Dir districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
He said that the selected prime minister had given NRO to the Taliban spokesperson Ihsanullah Ihsan who had claimed responsibility for attacking the Army Public School at Peshawar and other terrorist attacks in the country. "The terrorists are regrouping and reorganizing in parts of the country but the PPP and other democratic parties would never allow militant organizations to play with the lives of the innocent people," he added.
He also accused the government of stealing his party's mandate in the recent Gilgit-Baltistan election. "After skyrocketing prices of edible commodities the present government has doubled the rates of medicines," he said and added that after sugar, atta and petrol crisis the people would now face the gas crisis. He appreciated the sacrifices rendered by the people of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and former tribal areas for the restoration of peace and said the PTI government had not fulfilled its pledges regarding the rehabilitation and reconstruction process in the former tribal areas that merged into Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. "The merger of tribal areas is confined to papers and no practical steps has been taken for economic development of the tribal districts," the PPP leader said and added that even the developmental fund for tribal districts had been reduced.
He claimed huge funds amounting to Rs160 billion meant for Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa mega projects had been denied by the federal government. The PPP leader criticised the federal government for not giving the province its due share in net hydel profit, oil and gas and other resources being generated in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.
Criticising National Accountability Bureau, Bilawal said "NAB doesn't see how Peshawar's BRT is the country's most expensive metro system and its buses catch fire on their own. “It doesn't see corruption in Malam Jabba, or how buildings in New York were built through sewing machines... NAB does not have the courage to check how a special assistant was able to build a Papa John's empire around the world," Bilawal said and added that the country could not have a strong accountability system until "there is one law for all citizens. Until there are same courts and laws for politicians, army generals and judges."
The PPP leader paid glowing tribute to the late Chief Justice of Peshawar High Court Waqar Ahmad Seth for his bold decisions for the sake of upholding merit, justice and constitution. Awami National Party Central Vice President Ameer Haider Khan Hoti told the gathering that Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and its people remained in the frontline in war against militancy where thousands of people had lost their lives and properties for peace and stability of the country.
"Unfortunately the people of this province were neither compensated for their losses nor their sacrifices were honoured and rewarded by the present rulers," he said and demanded that the province should be given its due share in net hydel profit, oil and gas royalty and other resources.
The ANP leader said that the 18th Amendment in the Constitution had guaranteed provincial rights to Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and other smaller provinces and they would resist any change in it. He assured that his party fully supported the PDM leadership and component parties in their struggle for restoring real democracy and supremacy of parliament.