Thousands attend joint opposition rally in Pakistan

The rally was the third organized under the banner of the Pakistan Democratic Movement, a coalition of 11 opposition parties, which was founded in September. They are demanding the resignation of prime minister Imran Khan

December 14, 2020 by Peoples Dispatch
Pakistani opposition protesters in Lahore on Sunday: Photo: Mashaal Radio

Thousands gathered in Lahore, Pakistan in a joint opposition rally on Sunday, December 13 defying COVID-19 warning issued by the government. The protesters were demanding the resignation of prime minister Imran Khan. This was the third such mass gathering organized by the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), a coalition of 11 opposition parties, since its formation in September.

The rally at Lahore’s historic Minar-e-Pakistan, was attended by the workers and leaders of all major opposition forces in Pakistan. PDM’s constituents come from opposing ideological hues in the country – from the leftist Awami National Party to the extreme right-wing Jamiat Ahle Hadith. The main constituents of the PDM are Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) and Jamiat Ulema e-Islam (JUI-F).

One of the leaders of Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM), a movement against the state-sponsored killings of the Pashtuns and other human rights activists, Mohsin Dawar was also a part of the PDM at the time of its formation in September. However, he has since announced his reluctance to join the rallies organized by PDM due to opposition from some quarters.

The PDM accuses prime minister Imran Khan of coming to power through rigged elections in 2018. They accuse his government of failing to address all major economic and political issues in the country and being a stooge of the Pakistan army. The speakers in the rally highlighted the rising unemployment rates in the country which, according to them, has reached double digits. The official unemployment rate remains at 4.5%. They also highlighted the government’s failure to revive the economy which is likely to contract around 1.5% this year as per the World Bank, the first contraction in decades. The opposition also accused the Imran Khan government of indulging in corruption and prosecution of the political rivals.

The reference to imprisonment of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif in a corruption case was made as an example of political prosecution in the country. Nawaz Sharif was forced to resign after the allegations of corruption against him in 2017 and convicted a year later. He is now living in exile in the UK.

Sunday’s rally was declared as the final rally in the first round of the protests against the government. The PDM has given a call for a march to the capital Islamabad in January.

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