PDM hosts third rally in Quetta
The Pakistan Democratic Movement is hosting its third anti-government power show, this time in Quetta.
The rally is being held at the Ayub Stadium and PML-N founder Nawaz Sharif is going to address the crowd via video link from London.
The rally was scheduled to begin at 1pm. Two hundred chairs have been set up in the stadium for participants.
The PDM comprises 11 opposition parties and has vowed to run an anti-government campaign across the country. It has already held two rallies in Gujranwala and Karachi and will hold another in Peshawar.
“No one should think that they can usurp the resources of smaller provinces, make changes to the 18th Amendment or reduce the National Finance Commission Award,” he said. “Let me add to this today that be it Sindh or Balochistan, it is the right of the people to their islands. No one should dare think that they can occupy the property of these provinces.”
He went on to say that the government had isolated Pakistan in the international arena. “Today even Afghanistan is not talking about you,” he said. “There was a time when it was under discussion that a gas pipeline from Iran to India should go via Pakistan. You have turned those projects to dust.” The TAPI project met this fate. “Today Afghanistan doesn’t have any interest in you. Nor Iran. Today it is in India’s camp. China has also gone away from you. It means that you do not have a foreign policy.”
Maulana Fazlur Rehman touched on the subject of Kashmir, which he said had has always been the centre point of Pakistan’s foreign policy. “Whatever is happening in Kashmir and Gilgit, didn’t Imran Khan himself give the formula that Kashmir should be divided into three parts? […] And when India revoked Kashmir’s special status, they accepted it silently. They have sold Kashmir.”
“They say that India is happy because of our All Parties Conference,” he said. “India can’t be happy with that. India celebrated when our federal government registered the treason against the AJK Prime Minister. This is the message that you’re give to the Kashmiris across the border and India.”
Maulana Fazlur Rehman said that CPEC, one of our greatest projects, is now in the doldrums. “They have done to CPEC all over the country what they did to the BRT in Peshawar.”
And then, as with the other political leaders, he also stressed that the Opposition’s beef was not institutions. “We respect them. We respect the officials of these institutions. But if they try to impose martial law in Pakistan or support a fake government then it becomes our right to lodge protest with them.”
Maryam Nawaz arrived at the jalsa paying homage to Baloch culture by wearing a traditionally embroidered frock. “A journalist asked me, what message am I trying to give by wearing this Balochi dress,” she said. “I told him that I want to convey that I love the people of Balochistan more than the people of Punjab.”
She opened her speech with reference to events in France connected to blasphemous caricatures. Prime Minister Imran Khan accused French President Emmanuel Macron on Sunday of “attacking Islam”, after the European leader criticised Islamists and defended the publication of cartoons depicting Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).
As with the other leaders, Maryam too turned to appeal to the youth of Balochistan. “Some of the Baloch students, who were given scholarships in the universities of Punjab by the PML-N government, they thanked me,” she said. “I want to tell you, my brothers and sisters of Quetta, the kids of Balochistan are as dear to me as of any other province.”
She too spoke of the forcibly disappeared. “I know that young people are picked up from here, and at times their mutilated bodies are found but often they go missing forever,” she said. “When I was sitting on the stage, a little girl came to me crying, a young girl, Aseeba Kamrani from Quetta, her three brothers were picked up from their home and even after so many years there’s no news of them.”
The little girl showed Maryam Nawaz pictures of her brothers and said they were the only hope of her elderly parents. “There was no tear in my eyes when I was put in jail,” said Maryam. “My mother died but I didn’t cry, my father was sent to jail twice but I didn’t cry, but I heard that girl’s story, it brought tears to my eyes.”
Have some fear, she went on to say. “You also have kids, try to put yourself in her shoes,” she said. “For the sake of Allah, have some sense. Don’t treat your own people like this. They think that the people of Balochistan don’t have the right to elect their own representatives. Someone else will take the decision about the government, chief minister and ministers not the people of Balochistan.”
Being here in Balochistan remind me of a son of Balochistan, who was among Quaid-e-Azam’s most trusted people: Qazi Muhammad Isa, Maryam went on to say. “One of his sons is now a judge of the Supreme Court. He’s the only from Balochistan among 17 SC judges. Congratulations to you all that you raised a voice for him and the SC verdict that just came says that the reference against him was mala fide.”
“The ones who tried to malign judges and dismiss them, let’s tell Imran Khan selected and his selectors that they should resign on this historic defeat.”
Maryam Nawaz then turned to speak of Asim Saleem Bajwa. “He’s been a King here [in Balochistan],” she said. “He has played with the sanctity of the vote here. He has been making political parties by the name of MAA and BAP.”
“Now it’s time to change the fate of Pakistan, Balochistan,” she said.” Certificates of treason won’t be distributed. No one will go missing. There will be operations with gunship helicopters. Your resources won’t be exploited. No one will have the courage to play with the sanctity of the vote.”
PML-N founder Nawaz Sharif addressed the rally via video link from London.
He began his speech by paying tribute to Mir Hasil Khan Bizenjo, who died earlier this year.
It is tragic what has been happening to the Marri, Bugti and Bizenjo tribes in Balochistan, he lamented. “They were called traitors only because they asked for their constitutional rights. Some have disappeared. For some the sky disappeared, for some the ground gave way under their feet.”
Imran Khan you are immature in politics, said Nawaz, adding that their competition is with those who brought him in to power, not him.
“Saqib Nisar’s NRO won’t be able to save you, nor Aleema Khan. You’ll go to jail in the foreign funding case. You’ll have to give accounts for new construction worth millions at Zaman Town, you’ll have to give money trail for Bani Gala. Mudslinging at others won’t save you,” he said.
I want to give three messages today, said Nawaz. First, for the soldiers and officers of our army: you have taken an oath to protect our country, but also to safeguard the Constitution of the country, he said, urging them to honour their oath.
The second message was for the civil services: the world is changing. “It is becoming difficult to get away with wrong doings. You saw how Sindh police officers stood for themselves … and earned respect. You should not come under pressure,” he warned.
Nawaz’s third message was for the people. “The Pakistan Army is our army, give them love and respect. But when it comes to supremacy of the Constitution… peaceful protest, freedom speech is your right, no one can take it away from you. It’s your right to vote and elect your government.”
People of Quetta, it’s time to take Imran Khan’s government that is standing on crunches to task, he said. “People of Quetta will you stand with us?”
Bilawal Bhutto was unable to physically make it to the Quetta jalsa as he is on the campaign trail in Gilgit Baltistan. He spoke via video link.
“Today standing here, in Balochistan reminds me the incident of Akbar Bugti,” he said. “How a dictator showed his fist and said you won’t even realise what hit you. And then that happened. A democratic leader was assassinated. And his family and followers were not allowed to see his face for one last time.”
“When a court sentenced that Pervez Musharraf to death, that court was dissolved,” he went on to say. “It is the demand of the people of Gujranwala, Balochistan, Karachi that the vote be respected. Obey your oath and Constitution.”
He then address critics of the PDM. “Those who are dreaming that somehow the PDM is broken, the opposition’s alliance is broken, for them I have a message as chairman of the PPP,” he said. “The PP didn’t back out from the Movement for the Restoration of Democracy, nor Alliance of the Restoration of Democracy. We won’t back out from the PDM.”
“What kind of freedom is this where neither the public is free, nor the politicians, journalism and courts,” he said. “All democratic forces are on the same stage, the same page to get you liberated. And now everyone else will have to come on the peoples’ page, the peoples’ stage. Otherwise, they will all have to go home.”
Bilawal spoke about the recent controversy over the Sindh IG. “The PPP won’t let Imran Khan destroy the institutions of this country and turn them into his Tiger Force,” he said.
“Mohsin Dawar doesn’t have permission to enter Quetta. Do we need a visa to go to other provinces in this country? Even I was barred from entering Balochistan. Today I am seeing that an elected representative is not allowed. They want to convert the ASF into the Tiger Force. He wants to convert the Frontier Corps into the Tiger Force. Have you seen how Imran was issuing orders to the judiciary in his speech? He wants to convert our judiciary into his Tiger Force? He won’t be allowed. He even wants to convert our army into a Tiger Force. No Pakistani will allow this.”
Sardar Akhtar Mengal of the BNP welcomed everyone in three languages. He congratulated party workers for making the PDM Quetta rally a success. “Balochistan is rising,” he said. “And when this happens, others lose sleep.”
When the garden needed blood, our veins were the first to open, said Mengal, adding that later, they said this land is not yours, but ours.
Muslims, Parsis, Sikhs, Christians and Hindus live in Quetta, said Mengal. “This is that Quetta that the British called ‘Little London’ once upon a time. Its streets were fragrant with fruit and flowers.”
The alleys and neighbourhoods of Quetta would echo with laughter and singing, he reminisced. “But today, it is just the sound of bombs and the smell of blood, the blood of our elders, our children, our future.”
Today in Quetta all you will hear is the mother who has been crying for her missing son for 10 years, he lamented. “You will find mass graves in Balochistan.”
Do your job and protect our borders. Politics is not your job,” said Mengal. “If you still want to do politics, hand over your uniforms to me, Mahmood Khan [Achakzai] and Maulana [Fazlur Rehman] and we will protect the borders. Know this: we will protect the borders better and we won’t raise our weapons.”
You’ve turned this country into an experiment, he said. “You need a heart and guts to do politics.”
Mohsin Dawar can speak on the floor of the National Assembly but he can’t speak in Balochistan, said Mengal, referring to the PTM leader being detained ahead of his flight to Quetta over “security risks”.
Discussing CPEC, Mengal said it got big roads and what did Gwadar get? “Its people’s lands have been taken over. Our islands are being handed over. Gwadar’s islands are owned by their fishermen.”
“I was given a letter saying there was a threat alert. To be careful. To hell with your threat alerts. You want to scare us?” said Ameer Haider Hoti of the ANP.
“You want to scare the people who follow Bacha Khan? Wali Khan? Benazir Bhutto?”
Today in front of me, all the Balochistan and Pakhtun brothers are sitting, he said, asking them to fight Balochistan’s case together.
We do not want to just fight KP’s case, he said. “We hear the voices rising up from Punjab, from across Pakistan. we must fight their case.”
And when I stand in Balochistan’s land, I see my sisters here, he said. “I will speak about the missing persons as well.”
Hoti said today, Balochistan’s sister asks where her brother is. A Balochistan mother asks where her son is.
If there is any accusation, then present them in court, he demanded. If there is any weakness in the law then make laws, he said. “But it is not possible and should not be that these sisters yearn for their brothers and mothers for their sons.”
Today we have a threat alert, he said, adding that there are check posts. “So then stop the people who make the threat. Why is a person who needs to pass for business, why are they insulted?”
We want an answer for Gwadar, Hoti demanded. “If Pakistan progresses because of Gwadar, we are happy. But the first right to Gwadar is no one else’s but the Balochs’.”
Ahead of the rally, the Balochistan government banned pillion riding in Quetta. Mobile phone services have been suspended within a 4km radius of the stadium.
It has imposed Section 144 of the CrPC in the city. No one is allowed to roam around with weapons or display them.
Over 4,000 security personnel and 2,000 members of JUIF’s Ansarul Islam are deployed around Ayub Stadium.
Balochistan government spokesperson Liaquat Shahwani warned that the law would come into play if any anti-State things were said at the Quetta rally. Giving a warning to the opposition, he said they have promised not to target State institutions.
The internet and mobile phone service ban is making it difficult for journalists at the venue to report.
People hoping to attend the rally can park their cars at specific parking spots designated by the traffic police.
More traffic wardens have been deployed to help manage traffic.
The road from Manojan Road Crossing to Ayub Stadium will be closed for traffic, according to the Quetta traffic SSP.
No traffic will be allowed from the Joint Road-Spinny Road crossing and Benazir Bridge to Chaman Phatak either.
If needed, the route from Commissioner’s Office to T and T Chowk and GPO Chowk to T and T Chowk will also be closed.
Both sides of the Joint Road-Spinny Road crossing to Dukani Baba Chowk will not be for the general public to use as parking. It has been designated for rally participants only. Saryab and Qambrani buses will not come to the city via the Saryab Phatak. Brewery Road buses will also turn back at the Joint Road-Brewery Road crossing.
Nawaqili Buleli Kuchalak buses will not enter the city via the Koiya Phatak.
Samungli buses will not go further than the Gas Office.
Cars coming from Jabal Noor can park at the Spinny Road and beneath the Benazir Bridge.
People began arriving in Quetta Sunday morning for the rally.
BNP workers staged a small rally on Benazir Bridge.
People have begun entering the stadium. They are being checked by security officials at the entrance.
People are being given sanitiser to clean their hands when they enter the stadium.
PkMAP workers are arriving at the stadium.
BNP workers have set up stalls sending party merchandise.
PPP women workers have also arrived and are entering the stadium.
JUI-F head Maulana Fazlur Rehman is at the stadium, as is Akhtar Mengal of the BNP. Maryam Nawaz is in Quetta and is expected to arrive at the stadium soon.
PPP leaders Yusuf Raza Gilani and Raja Pervez Ashraf are at the venue.