LAHORE: On Sunday, all the major roads leading to Minar-i-Pakistan wore a festive look as a host of public rallies emanating from different parts of the provincial capital and other cities moved towards the Greater Iqbal Park-the venue for the mega-power show of the Pakistan Democracy Movement against the government of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf.
Banners, panaflexes and hoardings carrying portraits of the founders of the PDM and inscribed with anti-government slogans lined the roads.
Most of the eateries en route were packed with individuals, mainly opposition party workers, including the PML-N, PPP, and JUI-F. “Similarly, with PDM workers, most motorcycle rickshaws, vans and buses were also cramped.
“You can see a scramble for breakfast here. Half of the consumers are employees of political groups,’ said the owner of an eatery. “After a long time, I have seen such a large number of customers at my shop,” he added.
You can’t picture the situation in which we’ve been for the last two years. This government has economically crushed us,’ says young Murtaza, who joined a rally from the residence of PML-N MNA Afzal Khokhar in Johar Region.
“I feel that because of this movement, the Imran Khan government will finally go home,” he added, while clinging to a special truck made for PML-N vice president Maryam Nawaz to proceed to the rally venue for the public meeting.
A huge JUI-F procession entered Lahore via the Thokar Niaz Beg motorway interchange when the main PML-N rally was heading towards Minar-i-Pakistan via Canal Road. Enthusiastic JUI-F workers, riding buses, trucks and vans, raised slogans against the PTI government and in favour of Maulana Fazlur Rehman, their chief.
Some of the JUI-F workers Dawn spoke to believed that the PDM show in Lahore would be enough to oust the PTI government. PTI voters, supporters and leaders continue to use abusive language against our [Maulana] Quaid and other leaders of the opposition.
The government seems to have nothing to do for people’s welfare,’ commented Akram, a JUI-F worker, who was buying dried fruit at Thokar (on Multan Road).
Ferozepur Road, Raiwind Road, Canal Road, Multan Road, The Mall, Allama Iqbal Road, Ravi Road, Shahdara and Jail Road were used for most of the opposition processions to reach the venue.
Bike rallies on Canal Road and The Mall and near Data Darbar were also held by youngsters holding their party flags. In addition, there were many people going to the venue on foot, too.
Like employees of other parties, the PPP Jialas also seemed very enthusiastic when heading towards the PDM show venue. They kept raising slogans against PM Imran Khan and in favour of their party chairman, Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, such as ‘Go Niazi, Go Niazi.’
Now by addressing the recent PDM rally in Multan, Aseefa Bhutto has formally entered politics too. And we see her as a reflection of Shaheed Benazir Bhutto, our leader, said Anees, a PPP worker at the Mall rally.
In addition to rallies by political parties in the form of a rally, a number of lawyers were also seen going to the venue. “We support the PDM for the removal of this chosen government,” said Sadaqat Dogar, president of the Lahore PML-N lawyers’ forum, while talking to the media.
The PDM leaders, including Maulana Fazlur Rehman, Maryam Nawaz and Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, first arrived at PML-N leader Sardar Ayaz Sadiq’s residence on Zafar Ali Road, Gulberg, before reaching the venue, where they held a meeting in addition to having lunch together.
The government on the other hand, made heavy police deployment of the PDM’s power show for safety.
Since the internal security of the public meeting of the PDM, in particular, the huge stage (80 feet long and 30 feet wide), was allegedly assigned to Ansarul Islam’s JUI-F volunteers, the Lahore administration and police set up a control room to monitor the venue with the help of as many as 150 close-circuit TV cameras, in addition to drones. In order to inspect the people before entering the venue, around 20 walk-through security gates were also installed.
Sources said that the PML-N leaders had arranged the paraphernalia from Gujranwala a day before the protest, provided the administration’s notice to local contractors against supplying seats, sound system, lighting etc for the opposition gathering.
Women staff of the PML-N and the PPP present at the location also looked passionate. We agree that everything that has happened to Nawaz Sharif and his family is very bad for the region. We also hope that one day Nawaz Sharif will return to lead the country in the right direction,’ said an elderly woman supporter.