Pakistan Democratic Movement, the 11-party political alliance calling for the prime minister’s resignation, held its fifth rally in Multan on Monday. The congregation took place at Multan’s famous Ghanta Ghar Chowk, due to the removal of barricades from the original venue—Qasim Bagh Stadium—on government orders a few hours prior to the event.
The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) sponsored rally was spearheaded by Aseefa Bhutto Zardari—daughter of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto and former president Asif Ali Zardari—in lieu of her brother and party chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, who is currently recovering from the novel coronavirus. This event marked the big debut of Aseefa’s political career. The rally was also attended by other PDM leaders including Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) vice president Maryam Nawaz, Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-(F) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman, and PPP member and former prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani.
Aseefa Bhutto makes fiery debut
Addressing a crowd of zealous supporters, Aseefa urged them to keep supporting Bilawal Bhutto Zardari in his party endeavours as they had supported their mother.
“Selected will have to go now,” she said about Prime Minister Imran Khan. “He must pack up and leave.”
She lauded the crowds for attending the rally “despite the cruelty and oppression of the selected [government],” and the said the event marked a tremendous win for the opposition against the government.
Aseefa Bhutto Zardari emphasised on the successes of the PPP in Pakistan, citing Benazir Bhutto’s establishment of a “welfare state” in the footsteps of her father and PPP founder Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. She vowed to not back down in carrying on the party’s missions, despite any setbacks laid by the government.
“They think that we are afraid of arrests,” she said in reference to a number of arrests of PPP workers made by the government prior to the rally. “If they arrest our brothers, they should know that every woman of PPP is ready to take up the struggle.”
Maryam Nawaz points out government hypocrisies
Maryam Nawaz also addressed the rally prior to Aseefa, and marvelled at how the “entire city” had been transformed into a rally venue when the government disrupted their original plans.
She went on to call Prime Minister Imran Khan “COVID-18” and “the most lethal virus” engulfing the country.
“It is our misfortune to have an adversary that is so ungracious,” she added.
Maryam also lambasted government officials for their “hypocrisies” and for their insensitive remarks regarding her grandmother, Begum Shamin Akhtar’s recent demise.
Additionally, she accused the government of having a pro-Israel agenda and pushing the country into “Modi’s lap.”
Referring to the government’s allegations towards the opposition of not caring about the well-being of citizens and organizing rallies during a coronavirus spike, she tauntingly remarked that the virus must only appear at opposition rallies, and not at the crowded meetings of PTI and JUI-F.
Gilani and Fazlur Rehman speak
The PDM rally was opened by Yusuf Raza Gilani, host of the event, who thanked the crowds for their participation despite resistance from the government.
“We had told them [the government] that this power show will be held, and I thank you all for proving that a reality.”
The Punjab police had arrested multiple PDM workers over the weekend preceding the event, including Gilani son’s Ali Qasim Gilani.
Yusuf Raza Gilani also jeeringly remarked at the hurdles put in the way of the opposition, saying: “I would like to thank the government for providing us with containers,” in reference to the PM’s promise of providing the opposition with food and containers.
Addressing the crowd towards the end of the rally, JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman stated that the government had been scared off by the PDM’s “mere wave of a baton,” referring to the PDM meeting held a day prior, where opposition leaders had vowed to carry on with the really despite all resistance.
He also told the government to look forward to an even greater rally in Lahore, which is scheduled for December 13.
PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari echoed the sentiment in tweet posted following the rally, saying: “Multan defeated selected today. PTI had challenged PDM that we could not hold our Jalsa. Turns out their jails couldn’t hold our workers,[and] their force couldn’t stop the people; the streets of Multan today were a referendum for democracy and against puppet raj.”