All eyes on Karachi as Bilawal, Maryam set to address PDM 2nd power show shortly

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KARACHI, OCT 18 – The second power show of 11-party opposition alliance Pakistan Democratic Movement is underway in Karachi, hosted by the Pakistan Peoples Party.

PPP chief Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, PML-N vice presidents Maryam Nawaz and Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman and Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party chairman Mehmood Achakzai, among other leaders, arrived on the stage set up at Bagh-i-Jinnah late in the evening.

Hundreds of supporters of the opposition parties welcomed the leaders at the venue, dancing to the beat of PPP’s anthem.

The crowd waved flags of the various political parties represented by the PDM. Bilawal thanked the enthusiastic crowd and welcomed the JUI-F chief and PML-N vice president.

MNA and Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM) leader Mohsin Dawar, who was one of the first speakers at the rally, termed the PDM as a “beginning for real democracy and civilian supremacy” in the country. He criticised the incumbent government for filing “baseless cases” against political workers, whether they were from Waziristan, Gilgit Baltistan, Balochistan or Sindh. The cases, Dawar said, were filed due to political differences, adding that the current regime was “worse than a dictatorship”.

“I consider this government to be worse than a dictatorship because they have even placed a prime minister as a punching bag. In reality, the decision makers are Pakistan Army and its agencies,” he declared.

Dawar had arrived in Karachi earlier today along with supporters and workers of the PTM group to attend the rally. Dawar said that PPP chief Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari had invited him to attend the public meeting.

Dawar had not attended the first rally of the opposition alliance.

Maryam arrived in Karachi on Sunday afternoon and was welcomed at the airport by a large number of party workers.

This is her first public appearance in the metropolis. After leaving the airport, Maryam visited the Quaid’s mausoleum to offer fateha. She was accompanied by former Sindh governor and PML-N leader Mohammad Zubair as well as Captain retired Muhammad Safdar, party spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb and former premier Shahid Khaqan Abbasi.

Speaking to a private news channel later in the evening as she left her hotel, Maryam said she was “grateful” for the enthusiastic welcome she had received in Karachi.

The PML-N vice president said that PDM’s primary aim was to restore the sanctity of the masses’ vote which was “stolen” in the 2018 general elections.

“The public is now ahead of us. We (opposition) have gotten late in representing the masses but now we have gathered at the PDM platform,” she said.

Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, however, will not address participants today. In his speech at the Gujranwala public meeting on Friday via video link from London, Nawaz had accused Army Chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa and ISI chief Lt Gen Faiz Hameed of being behind his ouster as prime minister and of “bringing Imran Khan into power”, among other things.

Hitting back at his political opponents a day after their power show in Gujranwala, a furious Prime Minister Imran Khan declared that he would get “tougher” with them and vowed to start making all-out efforts to bring Nawaz Sharif back to the country and send him behind bars.

“Come back and see where I put you [Nawaz Sharif],” said the prime minister touching his chin as a gesture and challenging the deposed prime minister to return to the country.

Strict security measures

Heavy contingents of police have been deployed across the route of the rally. According to a statement by Karachi police, about 3,740 officials have been deployed along with 30 senior officials and 65 deputy superintendents of police to ensure fool proof security.

About 112 female officials of the special security unit have also been posted in different spots and 284 commandoes of the SSU will be present at the venue.

Since several roads and main thoroughfares have been blocked due to the rally, Karachi police have released alternate traffic routes to facilitate residents.

Furthermore, 159 officials of the Rapid Response Force have also been deployed to provide security.

Addressing the media at the venue, Sindh Murad Ali Shah said that the government had taken all necessary measures to ensure that health guidelines laid out to curb the spread of Covid-19 are observed during the upcoming rally.

Though masks have been made available at the venue, few people were seen wearing them.