Following Sunday’s rally of the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) in Lahore, Imran Khan took to Twitter to condemn the gathering, calling it an act of ‘callousness’ in the face of a surging pandemic. During the PDM rally, the opposition alliance announced a long march as the next phase of its anti-government campaign; the final date is yet to be announced.
“Let me once again reiterate: I will never give an NRO. Whatever future plans of further blackmail PDM may have, my message is categorical: There will never be an NRO from my govt no matter what tactics the looters devise,” the Prime Minister said in his tweet.
Addressing the media in Multan, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister, referred to the opposition as ‘political clowns’.
“The nation has been blessed with an honest leadership in the form of Imran Khan after 70 years [but] the Opposition is unable to digest Pakistan’s progress,” he added, denouncing the opposition alliance’s huge gathering amid rising infection rates.
PDM’s Lahore Rally
On Sunday, the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM)—the 11-party opposition alliance calling for Prime Minister Imran Khan’s resignation—conducted its sixth and final power show at Minar-e-Pakistan park in Lahore. The event witnessed a large crowd despite security threats and governmental warnings regarding coronavirus standard operating procedures (SOPs).
The last of a series of similar public rallies across Pakistan, the “historic and decisive” Lahore rally marked the end of the “first phase” of the opposition’s anti-government campaign. After concluding the rally tour, the PDM had been scheduled to march to the capital.
The Lahore rally had the leaders off all major opposition parties in attendance, including alliance convener and Jamiat Ulema Islam – Fazl (JUI-F) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman, Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N) Vice President Maryam Nawaz,and Pakistan Peoples Party Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari. The rally was also addressed via video link by PML-N supremo and the ousted former prime minister Nawaz Sharif.
Addressing the crowd, Nawaz Sharif repeated the anti-establishment narrative he has been espousing since the inception of the PDM.
Referring to the Prime Minister’s accusation against the PDM of demanding a no reconciliation ordinance (NRO), Nawaz said: “Who is asking you for an NRO? You and Aleema Khan got an NRO from Saqib Nisar yourself.”
“My only crime is that I speak the truth,” said Nawaz, adding that he espouses the same narrative as the country founder Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah. He maintained that he spoke for the people of Pakistan.
The rally was also addressed by PML-N vice president Maryam Nawaz, who thanked the crowds for their attendance and urged them to comply with COVID-19 SOPs by wearing masks.
Reiterating her father’s points, she said: “There’s nothing wrong in asking for free and fair elections.”
Maulana Fazl ur Rehman, while addressing the crowd, called the incumbent government “illegitimate” and predicted unrest in the country in the near future. “I see anarchy in the country. We should handle matters before heading towards anarchy,” he warned.
PPP chairmain Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, upon his turn, called for Prime Minister Imran Khan’s resignation and announced the PDM’s upcoming long march plans.
“The time for long march towards Islamabad has arrived and we will force Imran Khan to resign,” he announced.
The PDM leadership is set to meet today at Maryam Nawaz’s residence in Lahore to finalise the next phase of the alliance’s plans.