Sharif, daughter seek support for sanctity of vote at Bahawalpur rally

BAHAWALPUR: Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his daughter Maryam continued with their bitter criticism of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chairperson Imran Khan while speaking at a public gathering at Dring Stadium here on Friday.

Announcing a breakaway from the way the country has been governed over the past 70 years, Mr Sharif said that no one would be allowed to disrespect the sanctity of the vote anymore. On the other hand, Maryam launched a diatribe against Mr Khan, taunting him for losing 12 senate votes to the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP).

The former prime minister began his speech by recounting the services he had rendered for the country in the past: construction of a motorway, ending terrorism and electricity loadshedding, etc.

However, he added that the country was hit by a price hike right after he had been disqualified by the Supreme Court from holding public office.

He lamented that even when he was in power, he had not been allowed to work as his political rivals had tried to hinder the government’s work by holding sit-ins.

“Now I will be disqualified for life,” he said, while vowing not to allow anyone to disrespect the sanctity of the vote, and asking the people in the audience to support him in this struggle.

Moved by the massive show of support from the crowd gathered at Dring Stadium, Mr Sharif said the power show his party had put on in Bahawalpur was a referendum in his favour and an indication of how the elections would play out this year.

He said his political rivals were probably stunned to see such a massive gathering, and thanked the people for attending it.

An indication of his love for south Punjab was that his government had opened several new educational institutions in the area, he said. The former prime minister also announced that his government would provide affordable housing to those who lacked shelter, and promised to bring the Metro Bus Project to Bahawalpur. “I will talk to Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif about this,” he promised, while asking the audience to promise to vote for his political party in the upcoming general elections.

Earlier while addressing the gathering, Maryam lashed out at the PTI chief saying that he used to call PPP chairperson Asif Ali Zardari a thief, but several of his party’s representatives had sold their senate votes to the PPP. The market for senate votes was booming, she scoffed, and so Mr Khan would have to cry.

Addressing the gathering, she asked the audience if Mr Khan remained legible to hold public office under Article 62 after documents of his Banigala house had turned out to be forged and he had lied about that too. She asked the crowd to promise her to stand by Mr Sharif and to support him in the elections.

Separately, MNA Makhdum Ali Hassan Gilani, who had been estranged from the PML-N for some time, also participated in the event and sat on the stage with Mr Sharif.

Last month, Mr Gilani had issued a statement announcing that he was going to part ways with the PML-N because, he claimed, the government had withheld development funds for Uch Sharif. MNA Hamza Shahbaz later called him and placated him, after which Mr Gilani stopped criticising the party.

Protest demonstration

A large number of Bahawalpur Suba Mahaaz workers and supporters and members of its allied bodies held a protest against Mr Sharif who, they claimed, had not honoured his commitment of declaring Bahawalpur a separate province.

The activists set up a protest camp at busy Khatm-i-Nubuwat Chowk (formerly known as Fawara Chowk) and shouted slogans against the country’s rulers, and demanded a separate province. The protesters stopped a passing Speedo Bus and shouted slogans in front of it.

Jamaat-i-Islami MPA Dr Syed Waseem Akhtar led a rally at Farid Gate, where he said that Mr Sharif was visiting Bahawalpur without fulfilling his promise of carving a separate province.