An anti-government demonstration in Pakistan, organized by a new coalition of opposition political parties, drew tens of thousands on Friday, with opponents of the prime minister calling Imran Khan “the beginning of the end.”
The protest in Gujranwala on Friday was first staged by the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), a coalition of 11 opposition political parties that have united to oust Khan.
PDM leader Maulana Fazlur Rehman said: “This is an illegal government. It has been imposed on us by the establishment. We reject this illegal principle.
The night before the rally, the government began mass arrests and arrests of about 500 opposition figures and activists belonging to the opposition Muslim League-N.
PML-N Secretary General Ahsan Iqbal described how during the midnight protests, “Police in Gujranwala and Punjab jumped on the walls of our workers’ houses. They arrested hundreds of our workers and Hundreds of fake cases have been registered.
“In more than three decades of political experience, I have seen martial law enforced but I have never witnessed this kind of barbarism,” Iqbal said. “Raids against our workers are still going on. They have placed containers in our way, arrested the workers and put up torn banners, but we will not give up. This is the beginning of the end for Khan.
The PDM alliance, formed last month, is the first time in Pakistan’s history that all opposition political parties have come together to challenge military intervention in politics. Three mainstream opposition parties – the PML-N, the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Fazl (JUI-F), are at the forefront of the movement.
Party leaders have accused the military, which wields immense power in Pakistan, of rigging the 2018 elections that brought Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party to power, and that his administration Is a puppet of the agenda.
Iqbal said: We do not need the involvement of the military establishment in politics. It should stop. That is why all the opposition will gather today. There is only one way left for Pakistan – democracy without military intervention.
The rally is the first of many demonstrations and rallies the PDM has organized in the coming weeks to demand this demand in January 2021, before going to the “Long March” of Parliament in the capital, Islamabad, in January 2021. There is a meeting. Opposition leaders have said they will use a large-scale resignation and no-confidence vote in parliament to overthrow the government.
The protests come at a time when Khan’s government is struggling to cope with Asia’s sharpest economic downturn, unemployment and the worst inflation rate, which has led to a sharp rise in food prices. The reason is widespread dissatisfaction.
Corona virus epidemic has worsened Pakistan’s economic situation, with the country’s economy contracted in June for the first time in 68 years.
Pakistan is still seen as a relatively well-managed epidemic, far below India, with only 322,000 cases and 6,621 deaths in a population of 220 million. However, there are concerns that prosperity is paving the way for another wave.
At Friday’s rally, which drew 50,000 people to the stadium, no social distance was imposed and no hidden faces were visible on the crowd or political leaders..
Banners bearing the faces of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif were held by the crowd. Wasim Ahmad Khan, a resident of Rawalpindi, said he was there for a democratic Pakistan where everyone would be accountable and responsible.
He said: “Since Imran Khan came to power, my monthly expenses have doubled to £ 300. Even then, it is difficult to feed my family with this money because the Pakistani rupee has depreciated so badly. New Pakistan Imran Khan has run an election campaign? It is definitely not for the poor.
Liaquat Ali Qureshi, who went to the rally from neighboring Gujarat to attend the rally, said: “The government is crushing the poor. We were happy in our old Pakistan but Imran Khan made false promises of a new Pakistan and robbed us.
He added: “Everyone knows that he was made prime minister by a military establishment that has controlled Pakistani politics for more than a decade.”
Several senior opposition figures were arrested in retaliation for growing anti-government criticism. Last month, anti-corruption forces arrested PML-N leader Shahbaz Sharif and three-time former prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s brother, who were jailed on corruption charges.
Last year, 70-year-old Sharif was granted eight weeks’ bail to travel to the UK for medical treatment, but is now considered a fugitive by the courts. Pakistani authorities are trying to repatriate him from Britain. Despite a government ban on Sharif’s speeches, he was scheduled to address a rally via satellite phone from London.
An arrest warrant was also issued this week for former President Ali Zardari, the killer of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto’s husband and a senior PPP figure.
PPP spokesman Senator Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar said Khan’s government was “doing what the dictatorial government is doing”.
“The government is using all means to stop us from protesting, from arrests to blocking the streets. They have started fake cases against opposition parties and leaders. I will not call it an elected government,” Khokhar said.
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