RE Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif has demanded President Asif Ali Zardari step down as head of the state, or the Parliament will hold him accountable. Zardari must resign as president, the PML-N leader insisted, saying that if he did not do so, the Parliament would hold him accountable. And if the Parliament failed, the masses from Karachi to Peshawar going against him, will hang him along with his group of looters at the Bhaati Chowk, he declared. Asif Zardari has ruined the country and made it hollow on all counts and giving him (Zardari) any further time will be disastrous for the country and the nation, Shahbaz said while addressing a huge public rally held in connection with the PML-N 'Go Zardari Go drive launched against the rampant corruption, unemployment, loadshedding, price hike, and unrest under, what the party claims, Asif Ali Zardari, in the country.
The protest rally from Nasir Bagh to Bhaati Chowk found people all around, not only within the prescribed area but wide outside it. The rally was conspicuously marked by loud slogans against President Zardari and it saw the public exuberance reaching a peak when Shahbaz Sharif himself led the slogans against the president.
The speech of Shahbaz Sharif was a strong tirade against President Zardari whom he more than once called 'Madari (juggler) while disowning him as the president of Pakistan. How can I accept a person my president who sends greeting letter to America on the May 2 (day of Osamas killing) incident which was a matter of great humiliation for the country, he said. He said Zardari was day in, day out busy looting the country, and tainted with NRO, was leading corruption in the country. He said he cannot accept such a person his president.
Shahbaz said people were badly crying out of pains given by the acts of Zardari and the present 'ocean of people was the popular verdict, and a last nail in the coffin of Zardaris rule and the clique of plunderers he (Zardari) leads. He said the Jiyalas (PPP loyalists) who are loyal to Benazir Bhutto Shaheed are also fed up with Zardari and want him no more in the office. The Jiyalas now say they are not purchased slaves of Zardari.
The outspoken PML-N leader was particularly hard hitting at Zardaris absence from the country whenever any calamity hit Pakistan. He said Zardari was enjoying in London when floods hit Sindh and did not come out when Southern Punjab was inundated. The CM, while holding Zardari responsible for loadshedding and all other ills in the country, said that under his patronage PIA and Railways have reached to the verge of collapse while billions have been plundered from Pakistan Steel Mill through commissions and kickbacks. On the contrary, he said, former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif gave to the nation Motorway, Gwadar Port, new airports, Green Channel and a solid infrastructure which all today are under the 'ominous shadow of Zardari. He said everyone today says that Zardari and his tola (group) has ruined the country and they must go.
Justifying why the PML-N afforded three and a half years rule of PPP while getting the stigma of friendly Opposition, he said, they wanted to let the government complete the tenure as it had never happened with a democratically elected government in the past and while allowing the government to continue Nawaz Sharif exercised patience with a heavy heart. But the PPP, he said, took it as their weakness which was a mistake on its part. He said today the whole nation was determined not to let 'Ali Baba and 40 thieves play their game any more and they would not take a rest unless they (PPP) are out.
Shahbaz said solution to todays national problems was the same as was adopted by Nawaz Sharif in making Pakistan stronger during his tenures. He said it was Nawaz Sharif who reached to the marooned Sindhis in recent floods and he has a programme to put the country back to the road of progress and development again. He said they believe in justice to all and want everyone to have shelter and quality education for the children throughout the country.
Mentioning the Danish Schools and Ashiyana Housing projects initiated by his government, the Punjab CM said his government was strictly following merit and the recent induction of 70,000 teachers was a proof of that. At the top of official hierarchy in Punjab, he said, corruption has been completely stamped out while stern action was taken wherever he learned this evil was being practiced anywhere, and no one was spared.
He said he wants to save every penny to spend it on the public welfare. He also announced not to purchase any new helicopter at the national expense and vowed to move on foot, motorcycle or cycle while serving the people. On the contrary, he said, Asif Zardari during a private visit to London hired a private plane on government expense. He said they (PML-N leaders) purchase air ticket from their own pocket and bear other expenses when they undertake a foreign visit. And the money so spared was shift to public sector, especially of education and health, he added.
Shahbaz paid gratitude to the doctors and paramedics for combating dengue virus in Punjab while lamenting in the same breath that no help came from the Centre in this difficult time. He said now they would defeat dengue and Zardari both and make Pakistan a great power in the world. Zardari does not know what national pride means and how a proud nation lives with her head high for he (Zardari) only knows what corruption is and how to practice it.
The CM said no more time could be given to Zardari. Amid full throated slogans of the people, Shahbaz demanded Zardari quit without delay as people do not want him in the office any more. He said if Zadari did not resign from the office, the masses would hang him and his cronies at the Bhaati Chowk, creating analogy of Bhaati with Tarir Chowk, which was hub of protests in Egypt.
He took a promise from the gathering not to come to rest unless the rulers were thrown out and the dreams of Quaid-e-Azam Ali Muhammad Ali Jinnah were realized.
Held under strict security arrangements, it was a well-organised and disciplined rally attended by well over fifty thousand people. According to PML-N activists, the number surpassed the figure of one hundred thousand. But it did not come as a surprise to many given the fact that it should not have been an uphill task for the ruling PML-N to bring this much number of people on roads in a city which is considered its stronghold and an overwhelming majority of MNAs and MPAs in Lahore belong to the party.
The central stage was set at Bhaati Chowk, while the gathering stretched as far as Punjab Civil Secretariat on Lower Mall and Taxali Chowk on Ravi Road. A portion of Circular Road was meant for females who watched the proceedings sitting on chairs. Around one kilometre section of Lower Mall from Bhaatti Chowk to Civil Secretariat was flooded with people.
The PML-N activists were in upbeat mood and were seen roaming on roads holding banners and placards inscribed with slogans in favour of their leadership and against the PPP government and leadership. 'Go Zardari Go was the most chanted slogan. Some of the participants were even using abusive language against the president.
Though majority of banners displayed on roadside described that the protest rally was against corruption, loadshedding and price-hike, but President Zardari was the prime subject of all criticism and anger expressed by Punjab chief minister and PML-N workers.
Unlike his earlier statement issued a couple of days ago that he would make an important announcement on October 28, there was nothing new in chief ministers speech with the only exception that he demanded resignation from the president. The rest of his speech was a mere repetition of his earlier anti-Zardari statements.
Apart from Lahore, the rally also attracted a good number of people from Gujranwala, Sheikhupura, Faisalabad and other adjoining districts. Elaborate arrangements for transportation of workers had been made by the party to facilitate the workers. One side of Ravi Road, starting from Data Darbar to Azadi Chowk was seen crowded with buses, coasters, wagons, jeeps and cars. Similar arrangements were also witnessed on Circular Road, Lower Mall and The Mall.
Some sections of three important roads, Lower Mall, Ravi Road and The Mall were closed for commuters at 2 pm, but people had the permission to go on foot after physical search at the walk through gates installed at entry points.
The PML-N workers did not disturb any of the posters of PTI Chief Imran Khan displayed on the roads which was their centre of activity on Friday.
According to AFP, over 30,000 people participated in the PML-N rally.