The first rally of the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) turned out to be “resounding success” for the joint opposition that claimed over 50,000 people took to streets against the government on Friday.
The gathering held in Gujranwala — the stronghold of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) — was attended by the PML-N workers in thousands, followed by the members the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F), who made their presence felt.
The flags belonging to the Awami National Party (ANP), National Party (NP) and Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) dotted the venue; however, their participation paled compared to the three aforementioned major parties.
By 6 pm, the venue was jam-packed and the tailback affected all the roads leading to Jinnah Stadium — a fact that corroborates the opposition’s claims.
The day, however, belonged to the PML-N, whose supporters thronged the venue in thousands to record their protest against the government. Maryam Nawaz led a massive rally from Lahore to the city, where all national and provincial seats are held by her party, and her father Nawaz Sharif made a hard-hitting speech that showed he was in no mood for reconciliation.
The PPP also managed to rally its supporters who followed their chairperson Bilawal-Bhutto Zardari to Gujranwala from Lala Musa in a caravan, whereas Maulana Fazlur Rehman, with his white and black JUI-F flags, entered the venue with a bang.
But the government downplayed the PDM jalsa, as its ministers pointed out lack of coordination among the opposition parties and also claimed that the number of the participants was no more than 18,000, as per Radio Pakistan.
COVID-19 GUIDELINES FLOUTED:
The massive gathering also blatantly flouted the anti-coronavirus measures, especially at a time when the second wave is in the offing. It is understandable that social distancing was not possible in a small stadium, but face masks — an effective precautionary measure — were also conveniently ignored.
Out of the party leaders, only some were covering their faces, but they too removed them once they started addressing the gathering. PML-N’s Maryam Nawaz and JUI-F chief Fazlur Rehman and his party leaders did not wear masks at all.
As for the crowd, a negligent number of people bothered to wear face masks as a measure to contain the spread of COVID-19.
In a comment on the state of anti-coronavirus measures at the venue, a Dawn report said, “It was both sad and comical to watch the policemen insisting that people [who were not wearing masks] enter the stadium via the so-called senitising gates that were fitted with sprinklers spraying some kind of miracle water on those who walked through.”