The protests in Gujranwala on Friday were first held by the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), a coalition of 11 opposition political parties that have united to oust Khan from power.
PDM leader Maulana Fazlur Rahman said: “This is an illegal government. It is imposed on us by the establishment. We reject this illegal rule. ”
In his first public speech after being released on bail to go to Britain for medical treatment, Nawaz Sharif, a three-time former Prime Minister, accused his government of toppling the army and installing Khan during elections in 2018.
Talking to London via videocoLink, a former jailed leader on corruption charges, he said: “Should I blame Imran Khan for the devastation, unemployment and inflation or those who have brought him to power? Who stole your vote and rigged your election? Who chose this government? ”
“They have stopped me from speaking, so that my voice does not falter and does not reach you and your voice does not reach me. They have failed.”
Calling “a Pakistan for all”, he urged punishments for military figures that he said established Khan and violated the constitution. He said, “I am being declared a traitor right now because I talk about the Constitution and democracy.”
The night before the rally, the government organized mass protests and the arrest of around 500 opposition figures and activists, including the predominantly opposition Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party.
PML-N General Secretary Ahsan Iqbal described how the police attacked the walls of our activists’ houses in Gujranwala and Punjab on the eve of the protests. They have arrested hundreds of our activists and filed hundreds of fake cases. ”
Iqbal said, “During three decades of political experience, I have implemented martial law, but I have never seen such vandalism.” “Raids against our activists are still going on. They have put containers in our path, arrested workers and torn banners, but we will not stop. This is the beginning of the end for Khan. ”
The PDM alliance, which was formed last month, marks the first time in Pakistan’s history that all opposition political parties have come together to challenge the military’s intervention in politics. Three mainstream opposition parties – PML-N, Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazal (JUI-F) – are at the forefront of the movement.
Party leaders alleged that tremendous uncontrolled power yields in Pakistan were rigged in the 2018 elections, which brought Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Party to power, and that his administration is just a puppet for the military’s agenda. .
Iqbal said: “We do not need the involvement of the military establishment in politics. It has to be stopped. So today all the opposition will gather. There is only one way for Pakistan – democracy without military participation.”
The rally is one of several protests and public meetings that the PDM has planned in the coming weeks before they prepare for a “long march” to Parliament in the capital Islamabad in January 2021 to demand Khan to step down Can go Opposition leaders have said that they will use mistrust and votes in a big way in Parliament to topple the government.
The protests have come at a time when Khan’s government is struggling to cope with a severe economic slump, unemployment and the worst inflation rate in Asia, causing a huge rise in food prices that has led to widespread dissatisfaction.
With the country’s economy contracting for the first time in 68 years in June, the severe economic situation of Pakistan was worsened by the coronaires epidemic.
Pakistan is so far seen as dealing with the epidemic relatively well, reporting 220,000 cases and 6,621 deaths in a population of 220 million, far below neighboring India is. However, it is feared that complacency is leading to the second wave.
At Friday’s rally, for which 50,000 people piled into the stadium, no social disturbances were imposed and no face was covered over the crowd or political leaders..
Banners on the faces of former Prime Ministers Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif were caught by the crowd. Waseem Ahmed Khan, a resident of Rawalpindi, said he was “for a democratic Pakistan where everyone will be accountable and accountable”.
He said: “Since Imran Khan came to power, my monthly expenses have doubled to £ 300. Still it is difficult to feed my family that amount because the rupee of Pakistan has become so bad. Is this the new Pakistan campaigned for Imran Khan? It is not for the poor, to be sure. ”
Liaquat Ali Qureshi, who traveled from the neighboring city of Gujarat to participate in the rally, said: “The government is crushing the poor. We were happy in our old Pakistan but Imran Khan made false promises and robbed us of a new Pakistan. ”
He said: “Everyone knows that he was made Prime Minister by the people who controlled Pakistani politics for over seven decades: the military establishment.”
There have been several arrests of opposition senior personalities in retaliation for anti-government criticism. Last month, anti-corruption forces arrested PML-N leader Shehbaz Sharif and Nawaz Sharif’s brother.
Last year, 70-year-old Sharif was granted eight weeks bail to travel to the UK for medical treatment, but is now absconding by the court. Pakistani officials are trying to bring him back from Britain.
This week, an arrest warrant was also issued for former President Ali Zardari, husband of former President Benafir Bhutto and a senior man in the PPP.
The PPP spokesman, Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar, said that Khan’s government was “an authoritarian regime”.
Khokhar said: “The government is using all methods from arrest to closure of roads to prevent us from getting arrested. They have initiated fake cases against opposition parties and leaders. I would not call it an elected government. ”