The top leadership of the opposition Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) lampooned the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government in yet another power show in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, holding it responsible for increasing lawlessness, price hike and poor governance in the country.
PDM President Maulana Fazlur Rehman, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and Pashtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) leader Mahmood Khan Achakzai were among the main speakers at the alliance’s latest power show in Malakand.
Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz Vice President Maryam Nawaz did not attend the rally, but the party was represented by its top provincial leadership, including Engineer Amir Muqam.
In their speeches, the PDM leaders called on, what they described as “the selected government” to “go home”.
Bilawal, in his address to the rally, highlighted that the PTI government had usurped the rights of the people, while Fazl, sought to respond to the remarks by military spokesperson Major Gen Babar Ifitkhar, saying it was not a good example of hospitality when “they eat pizzas and offer only tea to us”.
Bilawal said that the people of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa had been suffering at the hands of those “incompetent and fake rulers” for seven years. “Whatever they [PTI] promised, they haven’t delivered,” he told the rally.
On the other hand, he said, the PPP delivered whatever it promised. Giving an example, he said former prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto had fulfilled his promise by abolishing the Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR). “I promise you that we will also get rid of the rule of this puppet government,” he added.
He said that the PPP government conducted operation against terrorists but Imran Khan became militants’ advocate. “When our children [in the Army Public School (APS) in Peshawar] were being slaughtered, Imran Khan was dancing in Islamabad,” he alleged, referring to the PTI’s sit-in in 2014.
He also castigated the government’s handling of the Machh tragedy in which 11 coal miners were slained on January 3. “When the families of the Machh victims were protesting, the prime minister called them ‘blackmailers’. What kind of justice is this?”
Continuing, he said that instead of trying to heal their wounds and visit the relatives of the slain coal miners, the prime minister asked them to come to him. “Imran Khan has proved that blood is cheaper in Naya Pakistan than life,” he added.
Commenting on the economic situation of the country, Bilawal said that even smaller countries were progressing faster than Pakistan. “Afghanistan and Bangladesh are growing more rapidly than Pakistan,” he claimed.
Bilawal said the PTI government promised 10 million jobs and five million houses but since it came to power, it had been destroying houses in the name of encroachment. He charged that the PTI-led federal government was not paying funds to the provinces under the National Finance Commission Award.
“The PPP government gave provinces their rights under the 18th Amendment. However, the incumbent government is trying to tamper with the unanimous Constitution of the country. “Rs107 billion were not given to K-P,” he added.
The PPP chief claimed that China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) was former president Asif Ali Zardari’s brainchild. “CPEC’s original route was through Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa but this incompetent government has kept you away from it [CPEC],” he said.
“They are trying to steal your right. They want to steal the Constitution but as long as the people of Malakand are standing with us, we will not allow them to do so,” the PPP chairman said, urging the masses to support the PDM’s anti-government campaign.
‘We are not tired’
PDM President Maulana Fazlur Rehman also unleashed a trenchant criticism against the government. “We are dealing with illegitimate rulers, who have stolen the nation’s rights but the people will take back their rights,” he said.
This movement will continue. The struggle against such a government is jihad,” Fazl said. “This Jihad will continue as long as the rulers continue to oppress the people. We are not tired. The whole nation will unite and march towards Islamabad or Rawalpindi.”
Fazl’s remarks for long march earlier this month, also came up during a presser by the Maj-Gen Babar earlier in the day. The director general of the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), while regretting attempts to drag the security institutions into politics, had said that they would offer “chai-pani” to the leaders and supporters of the PDM if they came to Rawalpindi.
However, at the opposition rally, Fazl did not appear amused by the remarks. “They offer us ‘chai-pani’, while they themselves eat pizzas. This is not hospitality.” Fazl said that the military was an impartial institution. “The army is essential for the state,” he added.
Turning to his criticism of the PTI, Fazl slammed Prime Minister Imran Khan’s “blackmail” remarks in connection with the sit-in in Quetta after the Machh tragedy. Imran himself had later clarified that his remarks were not about the protesters but directed towards the PDM.
“The fake prime minister says that the victims of Hazara community are blackmailing him. He did not sympathise with anyone. There is no democracy in the country,” PDM president said, equating the ongoing situation in the country with the martial laws of Gen Ziaul Haq and Gen Perves Musharraf.
“The Constitution has been violated. Conspiracies are being hatched against the constitutional rights of the provinces,” he said, adding: “We stand with the nation against dictatorship and will bring true democracy. Now we will thwart conspiracies and fight for the protection of the rights of the province.”
Fazl also came down hard on the PTI government’s bus rapid transport (BRT) project for Peshawar. “BRT project [cost] has reached Rs127 billion. Technical experts say the plan is a total failure and it would have to be rebuilt,” he added.
“Pakistan’s economy has been destroyed like the BRT. The doors of corruption have been opened. Corruption in flour and sugar caused Rs300 to 600 billion losses. Medicines prices have gone up by 400% and these are not available in the hospitals,” he continued.
However, without mentioning the name of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), Fazl said that “the don’t see [this corruption]” but there was talk of “sending a questionnaire to me”. And in a challenging tone, he said: “Send this questionnaire to me and then see.”
The PDM chief was also critical of the “delay in the foreign funding case against PTI”. He accused the PTI of receiving funds from India and Israel. “Therefore, it will be a crime to support this government,” Fazl told the rally.
On the occasion, the PDM president announced that the 11-party opposition alliance would hold protest outside the Election Commission of Pakistan on Tuesday next week, while a million march would be organised in Karachi on January 21.
PkMAP leader Mahmood Achakzai, while addressing the tally, said that the PDM did not want any clash with the state institutions because it was not in the interest of the country. He added that the political forces in the PDM were recording their protest in order to rectify the deteriorating situation in the country, adding that all political parties stand united when it comes to national issues.
Addressing the rally, PML-N leader Amir Maqam said that Imran Khan’s was a mere ‘puppet’. “We are protesting because this government doesn’t know how to rule,” he added.
(WITH INPUT FROM NEWS DESK)