HYDERABAD: Leaders of the 10-party opposition alliance, Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), have arrived on stage in Hyderabad for its power show against the government.
PPP Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari was seated alongside JUI-F Senator Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri and other opposition leaders. A massive crowd has gathered at the venue to hear the leaders speak, many waving PPP party flags.
PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz, who has delivered fierce speeches against the government at previous PDM public meetings, is not attending this gathering as she is with her daughter who recently underwent a surgery after suffering head injuries in a road accident. PML-N Vice President and PDM secretary general Shahid Khaqan Abbasi attended the public meeting and addressed the crowd.
Speaking at the rally, Bilawal once again hit out at the government over inflation and allegedly usurping the rights of provinces, saying Prime Minister Imran Khan had promised a Naya Pakistan “but it turned out to be more expensive Pakistan”
He alleged that the prime minister had refused to accept Sindh as his province and asked: “If Sindh is not a province of the prime minister, then whose is it?”
Terming the government “puppet, selected and formed as a result of rigging”, Bilawal said none of the provinces and even Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Kashmir belonged to Prime Minister Imran.
“He (Imran) neither needs Sindh nor Sindh’s people but he wants Sindh’s islands, gas, coal, tax revenue, the money you give, but he cannot spend on you or solve your problems or get you employment. He can only rob your rights but you, the people of this country will not tolerate him. We will protect our rights and our democracy and make this PM run away,” the PPP leader said.
He claimed that Sindh had been given Rs160 billion less than its due share last year and was being given Rs200bn less this year.
“Think, if your right was given, the full Rs200bn were given, how much employment we could have provided to the youth of Hyderabad, how many health centers could be set up,” Bilawal told the crowd. “This is not Imran Khan’s money, this is the money of the people of Hyderabad and we will go to Islamabad and take back our right from them.”
He said the “incompetent” and “illegitimate” government had brought a tsunami of inflation with it and food items like wheat and sugar were beyond the people’s purchasing power.
“Imran promised to bring a Naya Pakistan [but] it turned out to be a more expensive Pakistan. This is only because these illegitimate rulers were installed on us.”
Bilawal said farmers in the country were protesting and they were not being paid for produce such as tomatoes and onions because the government preferred to import instead of buying from them.
“Imran’s tabdeeli (change) has brought so much inflation, unemployment and poverty in the last year that half of Pakistan’s families have food deficiency,” he said, accusing the government of bringing relief to the rich and causing pain to the poor.
“This is the same government that promised one crore jobs. I ask the people of Hyderabad whether they have gotten even one job from those one crore jobs.
“This is the same Imran Khan who promised he would build five million houses. Is he not stealing the roof from over people’s houses? Have you been given even one house?” the PPP chairperson asked the audience.
He further said Prime Minister Imran had said he would rather “commit suicide” than go to the IMF but “he has taken so many loans in the last three years that even if you combine the loans of all previous governments, the figure would be less [than now].”
He alleged that there was corruption in matters concerning the Peshawar Bus Rapid Transit project, Billion Tree Tsunami project, Malam Jabba project, Aleema Khanum’s “sewing machines” and Papa Johns pizza scandal, but nobody asked the government questions about them.
“You are bearing the burden of their incompetence in your electricity, gas and grocery bills,” Bilawal told the crowd. “He (Imran) has destroyed the economy, taken out the funeral of Pakistan’s democracy and locked Pakistan’s journalists and legal institutions. For how long will we tolerate this puppet government and experiments?”
He said the government wanted the opposition not to drag the establishment into politics, but claimed that while the PDM demanded the establishment to stay out of politics in every rally, the government “does politics while grasping their hand and fights elections while holding their hand”.
Bilawal alleged that the government also sought the establishment’s help to “handle media” on its behalf, as well as to get its budget passed, deal with disgruntled friendly nations, getting the FATF legislation passed, building consensus on the issue of GB, and for the upcoming Senate elections.
Earlier, PML-N’s Abbasi lambasted the incumbent government for rising commodity prices and unemployment.
“Today, there is only one solution to these problems and PDM has set out with that message,” he said, adding that though the parties in the alliance had different ideologies, they had united on one platform “not for power or any interest, but that the country should be run according to the Constitution”.
He said the prices of wheat and sugar had risen and the electricity per unit price rose from Rs13 to Rs25 “because the elections were stolen in 2018”.
“The 11 parties in front of you gained 70 per cent of the votes in the last elections despite fraud,” he told the crowd. “All they say is that the country should be run according to the Consitution.”
Abbasi said attempts were being made to usurp the rights of provinces, adding that the PDM will not let this happen. “This war will be fought by PDM for the people of Pakistan. I want to promise you that we will not let anyone take away the rights of the people of Sindh granted under the 18th Amendment,” he added.
The PML-N leader accused the government of having “crippled” the parliament, where he said lawmakers were unable to talk about people’s issues such as inflation.
Addressing the rally earlier, Jamiat Ulema-i-Pakistan (JUP) leader Owais Noorani responded to Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Director General Maj Gen Babar Iftikhar’s statement that politicians should not drag the army into politics.
“You say don’t drag army into politics, no one dragged you into politics. Please say, who dragged [the country’s first military dictator] Ayub Khan into politics?” Noorani said.
“They say don’t drag us into politics, then who was distributing the Rs1,000 notes [at Faizabad sit-in]?”
Noorani asked the army “to write it down that you will go back to your barracks”.
While addressing the rally, National Party president Dr Abdul Malik Baloch said the way the parliament and the Constitution were currently being treated should be ended.
“Today, islands of Balochistan and Sindh are being occupied by the Centre. Under what law? They belong to Sindh and Balochistan,” he said, adding that “they” had looted Balochistan’s resources.
“Fifty per cent of the Saindak [copper-cum-gold project] is Chinese, 48pc federal government and only 2pc of Baloch people. Balochistan will get nothing from the drama in the name of Gwadar port.”
He said all the parties gathered on the PDM’s platform had only one slogan: “All of Pakistan’s institutions will have to function according to Pakistan’s Constitution. If they don’t accept the Constitution, we won’t either.”
Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) chief Mehmood Khan Achakzai said the answer to Pakistan’s prosperity lied in accepting “the right of the provinces’ people on their resources”.
“ISPR says we will not take part in politics, we welcome it,” Achakzai said. “I say Maulana [Fazl] and [Bilawal] should go and meet with ISPR people and [if] they take oath that they will not interfere in politics, PDM will be disintegrated.”